Review: Let’s Get Visceral

An exciting project celebrating new writing and language of “honesty and boldness”, Let’s Get Visceral does not disappoint in presenting the freshest and newest voices on the London theatre scene. A paean to life in London and all of its attendant curiosities, isolation and damaged dreams, Viscera Theatre Co presents five short pieces of gripping and entertaining tragicomedy.

Sequestered in the mouldy, tempered vaults of the Old Vic Tunnels, featuring works by Tom Wells, Lola Stephenson, Roxy Dunn, Rachel De-Lahay and Molly Naylor, LGV is an entertaining and occasionally insightful collaborative showcase that relies more on sharp, clever scripting than its moody locale. The press release states: “Watch the intimate stories of our capital city unfurl as we take you from the soil of North Africa, to the foxes of Finsbury Park, into the barricaded bathrooms of ‘arty’ East London.” Yet with a startling focus of life in London as a unifying theme, the performers and playwrights manage to transcend the easy thematic tropes of signifying locations in order to successfully convey a fractured diaspora of well-deliberated characters rooted in contemporary time, rather than place. This is the strong suit of LGV – instead of being a predictable, Jubilee or Olympic-centric chuckle homage to Greater London and a litany of familiar post codes, what is presented is five works that inventively and passionately encapsulate the tumult and torpor of modern cosmopolitan life. All five works have a central theme of existence in London, rather than simply London itself, in its myriad, alienating forms, whether these lines of isolation are based on citizenship, awkward situations or emotional estrangement.

The stand-out segment is undoubtedly Stephenson’s Two’s Company, a one-person show which wittily and darkly conveys, in its brief running time, all of the complexities and mundane crises which afflict the daily life of young, uncertain people adrift in a capital city rife with promise and systematic disenchantment. This is a focus that is especially topical in recent times of flux and media saturation. Paul Westwood is compelling and affably believable as a corporate drone in a flat share, driven to extreme measures in order to mitigate his sense of despair and disappointment at the Real World in buzzing London – often seen as the apex of what is hip and happening, a melting pot of situational solitude. It is a work that deals with the crucial question of “what now?” rather than “what happens?” and for that reason, is a thrilling piece of new writing. Stephenson demonstrates unique promise and incisiveness as a playwright, daring to subvert and explore the bigger questions beyond a stable position in society, while Westwood strikes a fine and intelligent balance between stand-up routine pathos and self-deprecating ennui, commanding audience attention and sympathy despite a predictably dark turn in character.

De Lahay’s My City is the other highlight, managing to pack an emotional and intellectual punch with its sensitive and pertinent issues of human trafficking and border agencies, light and desperation in times of extreme need. Kandyce Walters is both elegant and downtrodden as a woman driven to selfish, panic-ridden measures by impersonally harsh situations. David Ajao as her harried, naïve husband is understated and artful in his portrayal. In summation, Viscera Theatre has gathered a consistently engaging roster of emerging talent and given them creative rein to explore universal themes tethered to measured and empathetic narratives rather a regional code – it will be interesting to see what will emerge next.

Let’s Get Visceral is playing at the Old Vic Tunnels until 8 June. For more information and tickets, see the Old Vic Website.

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