This incredibly successful promenade production from Dropped Tea Theatre is composed of five short scenes, all taking place in significant sites across Brixton. It’s a true homage to this corner of London, and is made unique by its support of local artists and businesses.
The large creative team, directed by Rebekah Murrell, were only given a week to prepare these plays – aiming for a raw and guttural reaction, which was definitely achieved. The artists are clearly passionate about their hometown and the actors successfully reflect those emotions. Mostly, it’s an overwhelming sense of pride, which controversially presents itself as both resistant to change and welcoming it. Knock Down accentuates that Brixton is not just the physical place, but the stories, the memories and the people that belong there.
The performance starts strongly in Lambeth Town Hall; an ageing woman longs for her home in Jamaica to which she hasn’t returned in years, whilst her granddaughter reminds her that her real home is where her family is – in Brixton. The concept of ‘home’ is a recurring theme, and these two ideas are beautifully illustrated, as the audience can watch Brixton High Street through stained glass windows right behind the actors whilst the woman dreams of the sunny beaches of Jamaica.
Walking from venue to venue through the bustling streets, with the commonly mentioned noise, vibrancy, and liveliness, sets the mood perfectly for the scenes to follow. The audience is right there in the action and getting a multi-sensory experience that only adds to the excitement and passion of the plays. Being in Round Table Books bookshop in Brixton Village Market, listening to two characters debate gentrification and loss of culture, whilst smelling the street food (both authentic and from trendy pop-ups) and hearing people chatter outside – it’s what makes the show stand out. No traditional theatre would be able to have that effect.
Despite the immersive experience, becoming fully emotionally engaged in each of the stories is harder to achieve, due to the stop and start nature of the show; something that a more conventional theatre piece may have been able to accomplish. Heartbreaking moments that could have been explored more deeply are cut short. Then again, the aim is to only have a bite-sized portion of a few people’s narratives. The brevity allows the emotiveness and passion to shine through intensely without being dulled for the sake of a longer play or a storyline.
The common themes of how animated Brixton is and what ‘home’ means do not take away from how diverse the interpretations of the brief are: the five pieces created vary widely. The writers are all able to create distinctive short plays and examine new ideas, whilst still complementing each other nicely. If only more theatre was this innovative, immersive and supportive of local communities.
Written by: Alex Wheatle (Lambeth Town Hall), Sola Olulode (Black Cultural Archives), Thea Gajić (Ritzy Cinema), Jennelle Reece-Gardner (Round Table Books), Michael Balogun (Brixton House)
Produced by: Dropped Tea Theatre