Pros: Funny and poignant storytelling of real life experiences in a truly enthralling show.
Cons: Some stories were more complete than others. Each thread of narrative was so fascinating I wanted a beginning, middle and end to each one, but the audience doesn’t always get the answers they want.
I must confess, listening to an 85-year-old woman flanked by two others of the 60+ age group talk about their first acid trip is definitely disconcerting. Because ‘old people’ are just like schoolteachers, aren’t they? They don’t have lives outside of the stereotypical activities, beyond the tea drinking and the cake making, the knitting and the crossword solving. They don’t have lives like those of their children or their grandchildren, right?
This is quite obviously tongue-in-cheek and we should all know the opposite of the above to be true. The Visible Ensemble, a group of professional actors aged 60+ who collaboratively created Who Do We Think We Are?, aim to ensure that the population of this particular age group is seen and heard as three dimensional present and active members of society, with stories to tell. And, as a group, what incredible stories they have to share both about themselves and their own previous generations.
Beginning in 2014 and travelling back in time to their grandparents’ generation, each member of the collective has a turn at revealing the history of their own family, climbing up the ladder of time to their parents’ narratives and then their own. They tell their stories in plain narrative ‘playing’ themselves, although some scenes are played out in vignettes with the help of their fellow actors, often underscored by live music. The members of the company are seated in the audience whenever they are not on stage, reinforcing their reminder that no matter what their age is, they are one of us, and like us they come with their own back stories, lives and passions. Staged in an uncomplicated manner in Southwark Playhouse’s intimate black box theatre The Little, there are just enough props and backdrops to ignite the imagination and see each story played out dramatically in your own mind’s eye, completely immersing the audience in each actor’s story.
While the production quite cleverly intertwines the personal stories of ten strangers, there are some strands that fit into the overarching narrative more seamlessly than others. The marrying of these ten disparate lives can be at times jarring and fragmented. Finding myself completely engrossed in each tale, I wanted more from each story: more answers and, sometimes, more completeness, than was offered. But then, that is real life. Throughout, these ten individuals take you into their lives and their histories in a manner that may not always be perfect, but is entirely captivating. At once charming, funny, touching, surprising and sad, this is a ride through the gamut of emotion that is life, or in this case, many lives.
Author: Sonja Linden
Director: Sue Lefton
Producer: Visible Ensemble
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking Link: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-little/who-do-we-think-we-are/
Booking Until: 15 November 2014