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Here. The 99%, Lyric Hammersmith

Written by Faye Marie, Leanne Alabi, D. A. Nixon, Chris O’Connor, Ellen Carr, Isabelle Emma Stokes, David William Bryan

Directed by Helena Doughty & Craig Henry
★★★★

Pros: An interesting collection of short performances providing good exposure for fresh talent.

Cons: Some pieces and performances were stronger than others but all had value.

Our Verdict: A varied and entertaining evening dramatising social and political issues which may inspire an audience suffering from political apathy.

Courtesy of Back Here! Theatre Company

This was a showcase of seven short pieces by new writers, interspersed with the opportunity for members of the audience to use the platform for their own brief ‘soapbox moment’. The premise being that 1% of the population makes the rules for the other 99% and this is a platform for that 99% to speak out about the reality of their lives and their feelings about their country.


The Lost Generation by Faye Marie, began the evening and set the tone. This was a young Liverpudlian woman giving a monologue about her life. Laura Frances-Morgan presented the piece brilliantly as Chelsea Myers and interacted with the audience so well that it felt like a merging of stand-up with acting. She was a representative of the youth of our country today. Her initial enthusiasm for life gradually erodes after countless, fruitless job interviews until she is back living with her parents and on benefits. What starts with crowd-warming comedy becomes bleak despair, all the more potent for being told in such a short space of time.

Arts Grant by D. A. Nixon, started with wonderful physical comedy. An office worker watching a wildlife programme at his desk gets so involved that he ends up with his trousers on his head whilst strutting the stage impersonating a randy stag in mating season. His secretary walks in on him to announce his next appointment has arrived and we then realise that he’s working in a bank and responsible for signing off loans. It goes on to show the loan application process and the culture of middle management; how people often with little experience other than owning a suit, tie and clipboard, hold such power over our lives and aspirations.

Betting with the Budget by Chris O’Connor, brought great laughs with two cabinet ministers trying to bolster the economy by betting the governmental budget (all £160 billion of it) on the outcome of football matches. The cabinet may not be gambling our tax money on the footie but just how fast and loose are they playing with our hard-earned cash? How far can millionaire politicians empathise with Joe Bloggs anyway? And how much do they really care?

Sex(ism) Sells by Isabelle Emma Stokes, shows us an attractive, young, blonde female trying to make her way in the world. Anna is attending a job interview and being grilled by her potential new boss. She’s smart, bright and keen but he doesn’t see beyond the pretty face and blonde curls. The clever format gives us Jannine Perrineau as Anna’s inner voice, allowing us to hear what goes on in her head and how that’s at odds with how she has to act if she wants to bag the job. If she sells her soul and plays the game then she contributes to maintaining the sexist status quo.

Seven by David William Bryan, rounded off the evening. We see an egotistical uber-wealthy boss bullying an employee whilst elsewhere another of his employees attends a hospital appointment. The power play flips and mouse becomes cat when the employee finds that a genetic anomaly gives him the power of life or death over his boss. When the downtrodden are given power does it always corrupt?

Various unpalatable issues of life in Britain today are presented cloaked in comedy and with clever twists. Many of us may feel jaded, hopeless and powerless about the way our country is being run. Can drama make us see things with fresh eyes and stir our passion for change? Bold but admirable aspirations for a theatre company and I felt they achieved some degree of success if the audience reaction was anything to go by. Back Here! Theatre aims to promote new writing and the structure of this production provided an effective vehicle for some intelligent scripts combined with some memorable performances.

The stage was also given to two members of the public to intersperse the set pieces. One man spoke of the People’s Assembly who are attempting to provide a platform for the discontented to speak out.  The other speaker was a young woman seeking to rally awareness and support for ‘Peace One Day’. Jeremy Gilley started this movement by attempting to create one day of ceasefire and non-violence on a specific calendar date.

It’s a shame this was a one-off evening but if this is representative of what this company and these writers can produce I look forward to seeing their future work.

Seen the show yourself? Agree or disagree? 

Here. The 99% ran at Lyric Hammersmith on 23 August 2013 for one night only
More information can be found at: www.backheretheatre.co.uk

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