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The Capital
3.0reviewer's rating

Birmingham theatre company Stan’s Cafe’s new show The Capital explores five lives crossing paths. They meet as they search for very different goals in the big city, exploring how inequality is the biggest challenge facing the world today.

The show uses two moving walkways which move almost constantly, transporting performers, chairs, coat stands, plastic cups and much more from one side of the stage to the other, in an episodic attempt to reflect human lives. As stories are told entirely without words, a soundtrack of electronic music plays constantly for the full hour and a half performance, reflecting recognisable human experiences.

James Yarker writes in his director’s note how the inspiration for this show came in two forms – from conversations with economists at Warwick University surrounding economic inequality in our cities, and a desire conjured many years ago to make a show using travellators. This, in a nutshell, is therefore achieved, but it is Yarker’s comments on the performance being ‘a reflection of and on what we see, hear, experience and learn as citizens’ which appear more problematic.

The ideas of economic inequality are indeed reflected and to a very high standard of execution. With slick scene changes and flawless stage management, the production is incredibly clean and aesthetically pleasing. It seems though that the reflection of life is where the performance ends, and for a 90-minute production, there is a sense of yearning for more than an image once the curtain falls. Of course, one could argue this is, in fact, a perfect reflection on life, as there is no natural beginning, middle or end, but in the setting of a theatre performance, it lacks a touch of substance while the style shines bright.

The concept of a play with no text is commendable and produced to much success. The storytelling is clear in the most part, and the essence of capturing snapshots of every day works very well. The performers, who also devised the piece, manage to portray clarity and nuance whilst juggling the logistical nightmare of a moving floor and countless characters to play.

Overall, I think the show’s main issue is its placement within the cities it represents. As a 90 minute performance where audiences are asked to sit still and purely watch, the audience engagement the piece is crying out for is immediately stunted. The message is clear – inequality is a huge challenge of life and the production aims to reflect that as opposed to change it. But its purpose as a piece of drama is less clear; rather an exhibition to engage with on a more personable level.

I would love to see this piece in a new setting, away from the constraints of a conventional theatre. As a research project with Warwick University, the piece is extremely interesting and conveys a very important message, but its output is potentially in the wrong medium.

  • Drama
  • Presented by Stan’s Cafe
  • Director: James Yarker
  • Devised by Gerard Bell, Luanda Holness, Hema Mangoo, Craig Stephens, Amy Ann Haigh
  • Until: Saturday 27th October 2018
  • Time: 19:45

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Katie Webster is a Drama and Theatre Arts student at the University of Birmingham. She enjoys watching original theatre as well as new adaptations of classic plays. She recently spent five weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe as a production intern with Baby Wants Candy.

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