Re:Write is an exciting project which aims to showcase new London writing. After the sold-out success of Re:Awakened (July 2016), the team returned to Theatrw 503 with their second instalment, ‘Re:Adapt’.Artistic directors Bridie Donaghy and Floriana Dezou appeal to writers and directors to respond to thematic briefs- those involved worked under the guideline ‘Re:Adapt’- essentially, ‘adapting’ to the city around us. In the space of just over an hour, we are treated to two short dramas, ‘South of Home’ and ‘Takeaway’, intersected by three fine short poetry performances from Laurie Ogden, Toby Campion and Tommy Sissons.
Mulled wine, mince pies, shelter from the bleak December weather and –of course- an evening of fresh new theatre all turned out to be great abettors to a jam-packed crowd at Theatre 503.
The evening was lo-fi, stripped back theatre at its best. Perfect-paced productions whittled through their approaches to ‘Re:Adapt’ with the stage for Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves (Theatre 503’s Christmas production) lingering in the background like old wallpaper. In their simplicity, evenings like this really bring the qualities of writers, directors and actors to the forefront.
First up, South of Home did not disappoint. Donaghy and Dezou are clearly busy as hell, writing and directing the drama respectively. The twenty minute drama was an interesting taster for their flair and sense of experimentation. South of Home follows the life of a university student and the strained dichotomy between her life in London and the seemingly dreary rural town of her childhood. The protagonist is clearly avoiding something, but a visit from her older sister drags her towards confronting it.
Donaghy’s script is interesting, contains touches deft humour, and sometimes spirals into poetic monologues. Equally interesting is the use of sound, which compliments the protagonist’s anxiety, thrusting her into a fusillade of peripheral noises. Skype calls, phone calls and answerphone messages. South of Home, for all of its beguiling anxiety, is well contained and suitably controlled.
Drama number two: Nathan Powell’s Takeaway is enthralling. Set in a Caribbean takeaway in Brixton during the 2011 riots, Powell explores family relationships and cultural chasms between generations and also between the residents of modern London. ‘Gentrification’ can be such a heavy theme, something which many artists eschew horribly, betraying the subtlety of their work for a political message. Not Powell. Take Away is at its core, a comedy, it feels like a sit-com. The tightly-woven cast bounce off each other with familiar ease and the whole thing smells of ackee and saltfish and dumplings and Seinfeld and Friends.
Takeaway is a pleasure to watch- one can’t help but think that Powell captures Brixton life in the way Zadie Smith captured West-London life so well in White Teeth. Such comparisons can be brash- Takeaway is no Smith-carbon-copy: its originality is startling. I’d love to see a fully fleshed-out version, so any theatres reading- don’t book whichever boring adaptation you were thinking of booking- give Powell a ring. These guys are hot prospects.
Everyone knows that London is a pretty tough city to break. Whether that is living, surviving, digging into your pockets for the cash to go to the pub every once in a while, or to make it as a director/writer/actor, or even some kind of theatre reviewer…I could go on and on, London’s tough. We all know that. So: credit to the Re:Write team for their commitment to sharing new London voices.