We Know Where You Live** (Finborough Theatre)

Posted: August 4, 2015 in Theatre

we-know-where-you-live-mainThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

London is a city that began selling its soul many generations ago and continues doing the same right up to the present day. This is the verdict given by Steven Hevey in his 100- minute one-act play, examining the rights and wrongs of inner city development, which is getting its World Premiere here. “A vibrant hybrid environment” and “beyond urban” are descriptions offered by a glib estate agent (Ross Hatt), who is showing clients around a tiny, dingy flat in the East End. In more common terms, it is an area about to become gentrified and Ben (Matt Whitchurch), an architect, and his girlfriend Asma (Ritu Arya), an interior designer, see the flat as an affordable place to begin their life together. Hevey paints a bleak picture of a community lacking in real warmth, unable to free itself from the shackles of the past or to accept the changes that will bring the future. This is an urban area in which indigenous badgers, foxes and human beings are being overrun by city professionals, where cocktail lounges are replacing pubs and where sushi bars are taking over from jellied eel stalls. Links to the past are personified by the three members of the local Community Association. The feisty and stubborn Mary (Paddy Navin), born in the flat now rented by Ben and Asma, has known plentiful hardship and tragedy; she is battling for a row of Victorian villas to be turned into a shopping and leisure complex, because she believes that her area “deserves nice things”. Ben is scornful of such plans and favours preserving the villas for their aesthetic and historical value. Also on the Committee are Roy (Gary Beadle), a park keeper who has left-wing revolutionary views and Keith (Daniel York) who gives us a reminder of ugly undercurrents of racism, homophobia and violence still persisting in this part of London. The ingredients are in place for a meaty drama, but the writing meanders and John Young’s direction provides too little momentum and tension. As a result of this, when Hevey sharpens his focus and raises the stakes in later scenes, the conflicts feel forced and unnatural. Libby Todd’s set design is littered with cardboard boxes, but, too often, it feels as if they are sharing the stage with cardboard characters. Hevey’s play is driven by issues and the protagonists in it appear to have been created primarily to give voices to the various conflicting arguments. Despite highly capable performances, the characters are not sufficiently well rounded for us to become involved in their lives. Overall, this is a timely and thought-provoking piece that can stimulate healthy debate, but it is one that rarely ignites as an absorbing human drama.

Performance date: 3 August 2015

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