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Classified, Tristan Bates Theatre – Review

Entering the small space to the sound of gunfire we saw all four cast members on stage in poses hinting at their roles to come.  Some of the audience seating was a bit wobbly, but it was a short production and engrossing enough to detract from any discomfort.  Firstly, new teenage mother Leanne (Anna Hallas Smith) is being interviewed about her three day old baby son, Jax.  The interviewer (David Leik) is from DOLCO -Department of Life Choice Options - who has a surprising amount of detailed information about Leanne’s lifestyle (what she has for dinner, how much she…

Summary

Rating

Good

Enjoyable short play in three, twenty minute Acts, about one possible dystopian future which may arise from an unstable society full of inequality and social exclusion.

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Entering the small space to the sound of gunfire we saw all four cast members on stage in poses hinting at their roles to come.  Some of the audience seating was a bit wobbly, but it was a short production and engrossing enough to detract from any discomfort. 

Firstly, new teenage mother Leanne (Anna Hallas Smith) is being interviewed about her three day old baby son, Jax.  The interviewer (David Leik) is from DOLCO -Department of Life Choice Options – who has a surprising amount of detailed information about Leanne’s lifestyle (what she has for dinner, how much she drinks, etc.,) garnered from data available in the public domain.  Referring to research on the life expectancy of children born to less wealthy families, he takes pains to point out what she can expect for her son (only negative things though) and gives her another possible option.  The audience gets to vote on what she should do – with a predictable outcome – but the end of this section turns out to be quite satisfying.  This Act is a good mix of being light-hearted and a bit scary.  There are funny lines resulting in audience laughter, reminders to read the small print, and to keep checking your privacy settings on any social media platforms you may use.  David Leif as the interviewer is suitably slimy and ‘superior’ in his moral judgments but getting his come-uppance in the end.

The action then moves forward several decades, to a man (Aaron Kehoe), frantically calling a woman (Kate O’Rourke) who just about makes it indoors in time for the curfew.  During the subsequent arguments and rather tense conversations between the couple, the nature of the society they live in is gradually and skillfully revealed.  Apparently the general population is allocated to ‘Categories’ by ‘The Governance’, ranging from Cat Z – homeless ‘nobodies’ to presumably Cat A.  This couple are in the middle somewhere.  Different privileges come with each category and whilst there are opportunities for a review to have your Category increased, it seems all too easy to be demoted.  It is not a good idea to take an interest in anyone else, or try to help them in any way.   The excessive shouting in this part seemed unnecessary in such a small space, and another section on how society had got to this stage so quickly would have been useful.  There are still one or two jokes but in general this section has a much more serious tone.

The darkest Act is the third one, The Watchers, set another decade on.  ‘The Governance’ are exerting even more control over the lives of the population which feels increasingly oppressed and powerless.  One mother (O’Rourke) starts a peaceful movement of Watchers, ordinary people who just turn up to bear witness to the actions of government agents.  The idea of scores of ordinary people gathering and silently watching incidents unfold conjures up quite a powerful image, but there are consequences, of course.  When the mother joins the list of the disappeared her daughter Sarah (Smith) is tipped over to the side of extreme, violent protest.

The usual black walls of a small performance space quite suited these stories and were complemented by the black and grey costume choices.  The story themes were not anything new but solid performances and lively dialogue made for a very interesting and enjoyable evening. 

Author: Jayne Woodhouse   
Director: Calum Robshaw
Producer:  Loosely Based Theatre Company
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.

About Irene Lloyd

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Currently a desk zombie in the public sector, Irene has had no formal training or experience in anything theatrical. She does, however, seem to spend an awful lot of her spare time and spare cash going to the theatre. So, all views expressed will be from the perspective of the person on the Clapham omnibus - which is what most audiences are made up of after all.