Pros: Entertaining piece combining brilliant social criticism with comedy gags and variety elements.
Cons: If you sit on the second row, your view might be obstructed by the person in front of you. If you’re shy and want to avoid the first line, opt for the third instead, as it’s on a platform.
Whose London is it Anyway? is the unique festival just launched at the Camden People’s Theatre. Their initiative, with events spanning over three weeks, aims to explore the changing face of the capital and inform the public about dynamics that could deprive London of its cultural diversity.
This is Private Property is the in-house produced play that, through the real story of a woman evicted from her home, is designed to shed some light on London’s housing crisis. The finger is pointed especially at the “regeneration” plans that are making the city off-limits to the working class and are also threatening directly the existence of Camden People’s Theatre.
Camden People’s Theatre celebrated its twentieth birthday in 2014. The venue was originally opened as a community centre, and now pursues strenuously its mission to offer support to “early-career artists making unconventional theatre – particularly those whose work explores issues that matter to people now”. Unfortunately, the theatre won’t have an easy future, as it’s located at the epicentre of a redevelopment area.
The 50-seat auditorium opens directly onto a cosy bar, which seems highly popular among the locals. There is no stage and a rectangular section has been left clear of chairs. Four characters are waiting for us when we are admitted. They’re wearing casual clothes and look like they’re rehearsing a scene. While being skilfully disguised under a veil of light entertainment, the following seventy-five minutes entail caustic criticism, exploring current issues of affordable housing and renovation manoeuvres, described as a “social cleansing” strategy to facilitate foreign investments.
This is Private Property, which features a range of audio and video material, is the result of extensive research. While the production has space for many comic situations, the overall message is quite alarming. The two men and two women start by introducing themselves and giving us some details about their personal accommodation status: they are Joe, Tope, Racheal and Gemma (the actors are also the co-writers). The acting is fresh, spontaneous and they make us believe that some of the sketches are mere improvisation. In reality they are good artists and the performance flows smoothly.
The catchy songs, composed by Daniel Marcus Clark, make us laugh out loud but ultimately call upon sad stories of eviction and endless waiting lists for relocation.
Theatre work addressing community related topics is normally relegated to small venues and often represents an isolated cry. It would be great if this enlightening spectacle didn’t follow the same fate and went on a mini-tour around London’s independent stages to raise awareness on a matter that jeopardises our primal need to settle down and reach stability.
Writers/Cast: Joe Boylan, Tope Mikun, Racheal Ofori and Gemma Rowan
Director: Brian Logan
Producer: Camden People’s Theatre
Booking Until: The festival “Whose London is it Anyway” runs until 31 January
Box Office: 02074194841
Booking link: https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/wp_theatre_season/whose-london/