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The Street, Ovalhouse (site-specific in East Dulwich)

Ovalhouse Creative Youth

Pros: A beautifully written and compiled piece of theatre performed with heaps of energy throughout.

Cons: After a fantastic build up, the finale was disappointing and felt like it needed more substance.

Our Verdict: This was a fantastic production performed on the streets of South London with a host of talented writers/actors voicing their stories.

Courtesy of Ovalhouse

Growing up, I was exposed to the traditional side of theatre – plush seats, gilded cherubs and polite applause. The Street was my very first site-specific experience and I was sceptical as to whether an evening of walking up and down a South London street could be just as effective. I realised early on, however, that Lordship Lane was going to be the making of this piece, which was written and performed by young Londoners between the ages of 14 and 18, about their experiences of growing up in the city. Staging the production in the outside world emphasises the gritty reality of the topics they address.

Starting in The Blue Mountain Café, the production was separated into eleven segments, each in a different location around Lordship Lane. The time frames jumped with the settings of each small section, spanning from wartime rationing to the present day with particular emphasis on racially driven events, notably the Brixton Riots of 1981. The scripts, written in collaboration with playwright Rachel Delahay, were consistently bold and impassioned. The clarity and understanding with which the script was written and delivered was stunning at times; Sam Petherbridge’s monologue I Wanted to Tell You depicted a Christian man battling with his homosexuality in 1958 when it was still illegal in the UK. His delivery of the questions “Am I right to say how I feel? Am I right to care, in a world so careless?” reduced two ladies standing next to me to tears. To evoke this level of emotion in the howling wind and rain was quite an astounding feat but, along with many other moments of the production, the words rang with a distinct truth and relevance to the current day.

Another stand-out piece was Grass is Greener by Keyah Wade and Kaeleen, a very relatable depiction of how it seems like other people have everything compared to you. The girls cleverly portrayed the idea that everything is not always as it seems with two monologues performed side by side, in which both characters discuss their envy of the other and their luck in life. The only sore point, in fact, was the finale, which included the cast members coming together and dancing down the aisles of the Co-op.

As previously mentioned, the performance was dampened by the terrible weather conditions. It took a good half an hour to regain the feeling in my toes. The performers dealt with this admirably, however; their spirits seemed far from dampened and they powered on through with true professionalism.

All things considered, my first experience of site specific theatre blew me away (almost literally). Setting The Street in the heart of East Dulwich aided the vibrant and moving words of its young writers and painted a very real portrait of what life as a London teenager can be like.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Sadly, The Street is no longer running but you can take a look at other shows currently being performed at The Ovalhouse here: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson

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