Hoxton Street is an interesting concept that plays with the tropes of soap operas and British Working Class drama. There is a lot going on (as there is in any good soap) and a lot of it is ongoing. While that works for a returning drama, it did leave a sense of the unfinished in a one-off play. Equally, one of the issues around watching an omnibus episode of a week’s worth of soap is a sense of repetitiveness and that too was a little grinding in this production.
Central to the drama is Monica Bello (Carol Moses) who acts as local gossip, champion, busybody and also audience liason, with her breaking the forth wall to interact at the start and end of the first act to explain the audience participation aspect of the show. But largely the show centres at present on the Maynard family – Mum Josie (Helen Pearson) who has hidden health problems, Wayward son ex-con Tony (Nathan Welsh) and his sister, the underdeveloped Ella (Hannah Traylen). There are also Tony’s kids and Josie’s mum as more minor characters. While there is also a Turkish father and son, an Irish record shop owner, and the newly yuppie couple moving in, all centre on their relationship with this central and – in true British soap fashion – highly matriarchal brood.
Overall, the characters each sparked my interest but many felt unfinished. This may well have been a deliberate choice, given the attempt to create an on-stage soap, but I am not sure that worked for a piece that you simply won’t be returning to again and again.
Hoxton Street also felt a bit out of time, almost old-fashioned. Some of the themes covered were more like the Eastenders of the 80s than the now. Soaps tend to cover the issues of the day rather than the structural, long-term problems that can be hard to dramatise. So while all of the themes covered (debt, gentrification, mixed-race couplings, and crime) are all relevant, they seemed to have a sense of not being timely.
While the writing of Hoxton Street did a lot to bring a difficult concept to life, some of the acting and staging stuttered and so jarred. As a result, the whole piece felt undercooked and underwhelming. There is a tonne of potential in this project and interesting things to be done with the concept, but it is not there yet.