Thursday 26 November 2015

Where Will We Live? @ Southwark Playhouse

Where Will We Live? @ Southwark Playhouse

Where Will We Live?, from Changing Face Collective, is a real celebration of diversity. A verbatim play exploring gentrification in Brixton, its individual stories cover a whole range of cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds and skin colours. Brixton, we're told, is a melting pot of everything London has to offer, its own microcosm that lives and breathes with its community.

Yet there's anger here. Hyper-regeneration has hiked up house prices, meaning local people are losing their homes, their livelihoods, their friends and family. In turn, Brixton itself is losing its identity. This is a play of revolution lent a powerful potency by its verbatim script from actual Brixton residents, accompanied by restless percussion that adds a simmering sense of urgency. It gives voice to a community fighting and failing to be heard.

As a play, it suffers the fate of much verbatim theatre: individually there are some striking stories, but they don't gel into a cohesive piece. Instead they hang loosely together, but it's the percussion not the narrative that creates a driving force.

Further the politics feels a little over-simplified. Black and white are distinct binary opposites - black residents provide the heart, soul and rhythm of Brixton, whilst white residents are amusingly naive in their unwitting participation in the process of gentrification. Are the residents simply searching for a scapegoat? They certainly find it in Christopher Sherwood's two Councillors who essentially perform the same role: almost comically incompetent villains. The play's ultimate point is that Brixton is a place of equality, where there is room for all cultures, but the play itself doesn't give the myriad of opinions and views equal weight.

There's a fine line, though, between education, entertainment and guilt-inducing lecturing - a line that Where Will We Live? treads carefully. There are some credible and heartbreaking performances - in particular from Ayesha Casely-Hayford and Olivette Cole-Wilson. This play is political fire and deserves longer than its limited run.


Watch: Where Will We Live? runs at the Southwark Playhouse from 25th-28th November.