Sinatra’s smooth baritone accompanies us as we settle into the theatre pre-performance, crooning: “But I don’t let it … get me down / Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around”, swiftly followed by “Singing in the Rain”. This, it would suggest, is a performance that will encourage us to continue to look for happiness despite life’s natural adversities. Zuzana Spacirova then bursts on the stage, having run through the audience, to the backdrop of tube announcements proclaiming a number of delays. She’ll have to wait 7 minutes before her next rain. 7 minutes?! How has it come to this she muses: such a short period of time to wait in comparison to the amount of time it has taken her to get to this point in life and yet the impatience. Why so long?!
Spacirova is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm with a beguiling presence. She has left her family and home to move to London to become a ‘proper’ Londoner, although admits she rarely interacts with any Londoners. Her work colleagues and flat mates are from a variety of global locations: all immigrants like her. Her tale takes us across the city, across dreadful and depressing flats, across boyfriends, across jobs, and boy, does she work. Cleaning jobs, bar jobs, delivery jobs, you name it, she does it. Especially if it comes with a free lunch. Anything to survive. So imagine her surprise to find that there are comfortable office jobs out there that pay significantly more than minimum wage and appear to need little effort.
Persevere she does, despite frustration and loneliness. Her most trusted friend and confidante is a self-service checkout she names Beatrice, although it’s true that Beatrice knows considerably more about Spacirova than Spacirova does of Beatrice. She is desperate to become a musical theatre actress and spends her paltry funds on as many dance classes as she can. Keep smiling is her mantra.
This is a tale of youth: of a desire for independence and success alongside the often contradictory need to be loved and understood. A tale of a city that offers so much promise but is a sprawling confusion of disparate locations. A tale of immigrants, that despite their ever-cheerful outlook and endless capacity for hard work, find it so hard to carve out a community that feels like home. And a tale of a fundamental need for home.
A one woman show, Spacirova delivers a poignant and, at time, brittle narration, always accompanied by high energy enthusiastic actions: she is determined to make the most of this opportunity. And then, the slow realisation of what she really wants dawns, and her acting becomes more nuanced and more powerful as a result.
I can’t end without mentioning the lighting: a black box minimalist theatre, the lighting for the show is excellent. Pronounced and dramatic on occasions but subtle when needed, it really accentuated the metamorphoses in character and mood changes.
Written & performed by: Zuzana Spacirova
Directed by: Oettie Devriese
Prodcued by: Beyond Borders
Runaway plays as part of Clapham Fringe at Bread and Roses Theatre until 28 September. Further information and bookings can be found here.