“I want to show you London. My London.”
Theatre 503 has long been a supporter of fresh new theatre and they’re maintaining that reputation with their latest show. London: Four Corners One Heart is a collection of “stories inspired by the streets of London and the people who play on them”, all short pieces of new writing from emerging playwrights. The theme is London in all its variety and the four stories each take a corner, a point on the compass to talk about the city they love.
There was much to admire about the whole production, not least the ambitious scope of producers Sky or the Bird, the gusto of the cast and creatives and the supportive atmosphere of an enthusiastic audience. And though I have to be honest and say the quality of the evening was sometimes variable, I found much to appreciate too, especially in the stimulation of young writing talent.
My favourite piece of the evening was probably Lashana Lynch’s Crossword, representing the West. Definitely the best acted, by Ayesha Antoine and Michael Salami, it sparkled with a joyous playfulness as people of different heritage who realise they have more in common than they realise as they begin to flirt with each other. But it also speaks of a deeper intelligence as Lynch probes what it is really like to be a multi-cultural person living in an ostensibly multi-cultural society and director Jane Jeffrey astutely weaves in poignant moments alongside the comedy to showcase Lynch’s work beautifully.
Elsewhere, Benjamin Askew’s ambitiously poetic South London-based Doggy style: a Fairy Tale of One Tree Hill proved a quirkily effective opener. Simon Norbury, Heather Saunders and Oliver Gomm handling the imaginatively drawn tale of reality kicking into life and dispelling notions of romance and magic really very well. Mike Mersea’s Transits, a north London tale of a tentative father-daughter reconciliation via a photography project, wasn’t quite invested with enough emotional honesty – by the writer or by the actor – to escape the tweeness of the concept. And Rose Lewenstein’s East: A Hundred Different Worlds, possibly the most ambitious of the pieces of writing, felt like the one with the furthest to go: her intertwining of three narratives on a council estate lacked the necessary interconnectedness to become more than just an academic exercise and pull us into the heart and soul of the stories.
So a great concept, both in providing a showcase for the more eclectic side of London which doesn’t always get a fair hearing on stages here and in giving a platform for the work of young writers and the opportunity to stretch their creativity. And its message? That in a city that keeps on changing and changing, it is the connections we make with the people in our lives that really matter. If you’re quick, you can catch this before it finishes on Saturday.
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Programme cost: free cast-sheet available
Booking until 17th March