Pros: Thoughtful set and intricate casting.
Cons: Would like to see the plot explored more deeply, as it became haphazard and confused at times.
Located just off Shoreditch High Street, Rich Mix is an arts space dedicated to community. Bustled past and through by people from a host of classes and creeds, it seems perfect that its audience should be presented with a season of small stories that contribute to this big old city of ours. Living in London, we daily find ourselves grinding through life without ever taking the time to notice the person sitting next to us, let alone their history, struggles or moods. With this in mind, Utopia Theatre Company attribute personal stories to the individuals within the blur of the rush hour crowd in London Tales (directed by Moji Kareem). This production aims to strike a chord of recognition with the audience: to make us realise that strangers aren’t so strange at all, but are engaged in similar writhes, loves and losses to our own.
Utopia’s set is plastered with newspapers – a reference to the sheer number of stories that we’re bombarded with everyday but rarely absorb. All shapes and sizes of newspaper are represented: small print broadsheets, red tops and the freebies from which we take snippets of information each day. The black and white pages are used to cover stools that become dynamic props, from tube train carriages to living rooms. The newspaper theme is further woven into the narrative when the anonymous chant of the Evening Standard seller is repetitively shouted in the all-too-familiar monotone drone that we hear outside underground stations London-wide. The audience collectively realises that we don’t even acknowledge the man handing us physical stories as we ram our ways from A to B. He, too, has his own story.
Another aspect of this production that struck me was the use of different methods of storytelling from the multi-national cast. Even the native London characters (Gabriel Akamo and Tomide Omoyele) have their own language: filled with slang and nuance that is specific to themselves and their individual heritage. The idiosyncrasies of each performance contributed to the multiple layers of the narrative. A mixture of styles, from comedy to movement and spoken word, were used to make these layers all the more intricate, and to ensure that each story was told uniquely.
In fact, the only prominent problem with this production is that these stories are so individual that there is a lack of coherence between them. As we flit from one story to another, the plot of each remains thin on the ground. There isn’t enough time to focus on any one and become involved with that characters’ plight. I felt too quickly shifted from love, to suicide, parties and commutes. I felt uncertain about how and what to process. I’d be eager to see a version of Utopia’s London Tales where the tales were more developed and given more depth.
Devised by: Utopia Theatre (Moji Kareem, Natasha Chandra, Sónia Martins, Samuel Miller, Ronan Morrow,Vaiva Vazgileviciute, Sandra Helk ,Gabriel Akamo and Tomide Omoyele)
Directed by: Moji Kareem
Produced by: Utopia Theatre
Booking Until: 14th February 2015 (one night only)
Box Office: 02076137498
Booking Link: http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/london-tales