Review: Brighton: Theatre Uncut, Circus Street Market

It’s hard to know where to start with Brighton: Theatre Uncut. Five short plays with so much to say – I left feeling overwhelmingly riled up.

Ruthless in their take-downs of modern society, politics and culture, the plays move from the angry to the allegorical to the downright bizarre. One thing they have in common is their ability to make you think. We don’t live in a perfect world, but thanks to initiatives like Theatre Uncut; the Real Junk Food Project, who provide reclaimed food on the night; and Amnesty International, for whom Theatre Uncut are collecting donations, we can certainly try to make it as close to perfect as we can.

Set in a warehouse in Circus Street behind the old Blind Tiger Club in Brighton, the venue, bedecked with fairy lights and protest art, has a bohemian charm, to which Brightonians unsurprisingly flocked. You can drink your tea from a jar and borrow a hot water bottle so you don’t get cold – but wrapping up warm is advised, especially if you plan on staying for the post-show discussion.

Through a collection of underdog stories, Brighton: Theatre Uncut offers an alternative to the idea that theatre only takes place in stuffy halls, and is an art form reserved for those with money to spare. Refreshing and stimulating, it proves that theatre can be a highly effective political medium in a multitude of ways.

The stark juxtaposition of rich and poor, of the powerful and the exploited, is strong in these fearless satires; if you’ve ever been angered by the actions of the powers-that-be, you’ll find it discussed here.

The Finger of God by Anders Lustgarten sees a dystopian future in which buying a lottery ticket comes with the possibility of a gruesome punishment as well as a reward. Inua Ellams’s Reset Everything takes the absurdity of bedroom tax to its logical conclusion in a story involving kidnapping and explosives. Ira Provitt and the Man by Hayley Squires sees a Gove-like character struggle with his conscience as he plans an education reform speech, and Vivienne Franzmann’s The Most Horrific is the bitter taste of cynicism left on our tongues at the end of the night: a shrewd and clever take-down of the media that hits many nails on their heads.

Perhaps the most absurd of the five is Pachamama by Clara Brennan: a whirlwind of metaphor, imagery and allegory that just isn’t fully decipherable in the short time it takes the characters to rearrange the world as we know it. One particularly poignant line, however, stands out from the chaos: “How will we know which tribe we belong to? How will we know who to hate and kill?”.

The time dedicated to discussion, though welcomed and necessary after such stirring stories, left us wanting more, as the post-show talk almost felt rushed. However, the conversation rarely strayed far from the plays later that night in the pub, and as such the aim of creating debate was certainly achieved. Undeniably, Brighton: Theatre Uncut is different, powerful and thought-provoking, and a highly necessary shake-up of theatre itself.

Brighton: Theatre Uncut played at the Circus Street Market on 27 and 28 November. For more information, see the Circus Street website.