Battersea Arts Centre and Uninvited Guests’s The Good Neighbour chills and excites as the audience simultaneously enters the world of Clapham Junction during the fire of 1909 and the London Riots of 2011. This promenade production, which has the audience traveling throughout the streets and cafes of Clapham Junction, is especially engaging and brings a very real, human touch to events that shaped and changed this area of London.
Although slightly too long and a bit too convoluted at times, this is an extremely strong piece that resonates deeply within and brings wave after wave of understanding. The actor/guides slip between a world of storytelling and acting in a more heightened manner that creates a strong connection with your surroundings as opposed to the actors themselves. The script, which uses quotes and experiences from local residents, is utterly touching when used in conjunction with the spaces and buildings that are talked about.
Uninvited Guests has found a clear way of alternating between the two stories without making it difficult or aggravating to follow for the audience. Whilst I found the parts based on the London Riots to be particularly touching and really quite emotional, I found myself surprisingly gripped by the story of George Neighbour and the 1909 fire in Arding and Hobbs. Whilst there wasn’t much discussion amongst the participants in our goup, there was an obvious camaraderie developed through going into this process together. Moments from the London Riots which had seemed distant and yet had an impact on me from news coverage became all the more real and effective throughout the piece.
Music, and a brilliantly engaging and very well crafted soundscape, are involved in the piece with speakers placed in modified musical instruments that participants carry with them during the tour. This is an extremely effective and well-thought-through technique that instantly helps you picture the images and scenes talked about and, frankly, just looks quite beautiful (although as someone who carried a drum for most of the piece, I suggest you try and steer clear of that one).
The Good Neighbour is an exceptionally strong community piece that easily engages people from other areas of not only London but the world. The story and premise of the piece were easy to engage with, and you often found yourself sucked into the story or experience at hand. This has to be one of the strongest community theatre pieces that I have encountered and, even in the rain, it cast a spell on me.
The Good Neighbour is running until 4 November at the Battersea Arts Centre. For more information and tickets, visit the Battersea Arts Centre’s website.