Pros: Innovative physical theatre featuring high quality choral speaking, ensemble and technical work.
Cons: Not recommended for those who find suicide a difficult subject to watch, and those who are not interested in experimental theatre.
Finally, a show in my hometown: Croydon! You would not believe the joy on my face when I found out I was reviewing a play in my local area. Croydon is an up-and-coming town and I am delighted that at last the shows here are getting some attention. Roll on the good times!
Theatre Utopia is nestled in the quiet but popular Matthews Yard: a multipurpose space which provides food, drinks and of course, entertainment. The venue itself seemed a little empty when I arrived, but that was no cause for concern as Flashback had me focused from the moment I walked into the theatre. The stage was laid out in traverse, with the actors standing neutral around the space. No indication of the narrative was given before the show started, but when it did, the point of Flashback became evidently clear.
Jamal Chong’s writing is both philosophical and poetic, as Flashback explores male suicide by re-telling one man’s death. Yet the character of Man is representative of all men who have contemplated and committed suicide. The play charts Man’s life: from earliest memory, to first love, to first loss to his eventual decline mentally, physically and emotionally. It probes ideas young men hear constantly throughout their lives such as the concept of manning up’, and reveals how damaging such gender roles can be. It drives home the fact that, although we cannot stop someone from taking their life, we can try to prevent it. Flashback does not attempt to simplify the cause of male suicide, but does suggest that it is a toxic mix of feeling isolated, helpless, and suffocated. At the same time it also suggests that this mix can be counteracted by seeking help and talking to people, and the play urges the audience to reach out to the men in our lives.
From a theatrical perspective, Flashback is an example of dramatic craft at its most innovative. Directors Amy Toledano and Jamal Chong use many devices to completely immerse the audience into this dynamic, fast-paced show. The physical theatre is incredibly expressive and unique, and despite minor slip-ups, the choral speaking and split screening work for this experimental and daring piece. Credit must be given to the entire cast for their stamina as the ensemble work is detailed and refined. Lines are divided among the cast, with the ensemble multi-rolling with ease and the role of Man shared by each actor stepping out of character to replace the current actor plating Man. These simple additions add layers to the already complex play, and the actors seem to share indescribable moments between each other as they switch roles.
The composers of the original score for the show also deserve recognition, as the music keeps the performance intense and moving. In fact, my criticisms are minimal. The technical aspects of the show were always on cue and creative, yet the atmosphere was occasionally dampened during transitions as I could hear buttons being pressed loudly. Moreover, while I praise the gorgeous soundtrack of the show, the music sometimes drowns out the important dialogue. Because of how important the lines are, I also think that next time the pace of the delivery should be slower to ensure that no words are swallowed. Aside from those nit-picks, Flashback is an incredibly touching and relevant story for today; this show will leave you contemplating the pressures of society for a long time after the final bows.
Author: Jamal Chong
Directors: Amy Toledano and Jamal Chong
Composers: Ed Riman and Teia Fregona at Tundra Sound with Michael Alexander
Producer: Misprint Theatre
Booking Link: www.tickettext.co.uk/theatreutopia/
Booking Until: 25 July 2017