Do you feel counted in the next general or even local election? Do we live in a Democracy? What does it mean to vote? Will you vote? These are all some of the questions that A Look Left Look Right in association with the Roundhouse have explored in their part documentary part play now showing within the debating chamber of County Hall.
Set within this historic building it echos the very subject matter that is presented to the audience. A Look Left Look Right condense down a series of interviews conducted by Professor Stephen Coleman into the attitudes of voting and democracy. The interviews have been transformed into a theatre presentation of a documentary-play. The interviewees are far and wide, from elderly men and women, to someone in prison, and even to the distant relatives of Emily Panchurst.
There is something oddly appealing to listening to the actors speak the real words of these people interviewed in verbatim theatre . They reveal varied extremes of knowledge, belief and opinions towards voting and rights. At times they are shown images and are asked to comment on them, a photograph of women campaigning for the right to vote, a series of images within a polling station. The words that follow are a compelling recreation of the interviews.
The actors within Counted are brilliant at portraying a series of characters through costumes, accents and mannerisms. They switch between upper classes, lower classes, from youths to OAPs with great esteem that you don’t question who they were before, you just believe who they are now. Donna Berlin repeatedly plays outstanding characterisations of the interviewees, sporting golfing wear she preaches that she will never vote on reality tv shows, “what a waste of time”… sadly many people feel the same about democracy.
Molly Taylor appears to be a woman of transformation in Counted, and utterly mesmerising at reliving the lives of the separate characters. Taylor is certainly one to watch out for in future shows. Equally Jamie Zubairi portrays an utterly compelling series of characters and shines in his moment of being asked “would you ever sell your vote”. Well, would you for the right price?
Whilst County Hall is a charming place to set the production it does hinder the performance due to the sheer scale of the Debating Chamber. Often the actors are inaudible, which considering the high level of acting, is a shame. I’m also not entirely convinced that County Hall offers anything other than a novel place to set Counted. If it was not the leather seats, and horse shoe formation against the marbled pillars of the chamber – would the action be as poignant?
Counted is certainly a thought provoking night, and a wonderful look at the shape of peoples opinions to politics. It became more clear to me that a huge number of people will be voting for the next X-Factor series, but how many of those would have voted in the election? I fear, a small percentage. I left with several questions firmly in my mind, and a resounding knowledge that if I don’t vote on May 6th then there really is something wrong with me. The ritual of voting is captivating and A Look Left Look Right have gone a long way to try to capture the essence of this.
Counted is for the main part an insightful experience. If you are looking for a play with drama, tension and catharsis then this isn’t for you. The nature of documentation within Counted doesn’t quite allow for theatrical moments of tension or indeed a climax of action to appear. Instead a slowly baked notion of attitudes and opinions that at times are far fetched yet completely believable are shown. If you are interested in broadening reasons why you should be voting then Counted is a must see.
Counted is performing within the Debating Chamber at County Hall until 22nd May 2010. Booking and more information can be found through the Roundhouse website. For more information on A Look Left Look Right and previous performances, see the companies website.