The Almedia Theatre has proven that once again theatre can be sensational when delivered by young people, in this case it comes in the form of The Red Helicopter by Robin French as part of Almeida Projects performed by the Young Friend of the Almeida LAB Company.
The Red Helicopter takes a look at a future where an exodus of England has taken place, leaving behind children who were adopted or fostered. They are left to fend for themselves, feeding off scraps left from a time long gone. As the survivors group together natural leaders fall into place, and a hierarchy is made. Daddy rules among the children and asserts his power through the belief that he has the power to connect via a laptop to the outside world, and eventually he will lead them into their freedom – back with their parents.
French’s new play is a delightful take upon societies ruling and how with any dictatorship comes a breaking into rebellious outrage. Supression, technology and a twisted society run thick in the various storylines of the characters. The Red Helicopter manages to capture the perfect amount of humour in characters such as Haller (played brilliantly by Diego Alejandro) and the two heavily pregnant knock-ups of Daddy’s relationships, Blaire (Mollie Keane) and Blondel (Catalina Zuliani). Equally French balances the humour with the hard-hitting and edgy drama that unfolds, and through the character of Golding (Hauk Pattison) we are left with a shiver down our spine and as the girl next to me whispered to her friend, “I’m scared of what might happen when he is around” – it is just the right horror and impact needed.
There are some leading actors in The Red Helicopter that are worthy of noting for future performances in the form of Misha Patel as the two-faced but alluring Daddy figure, Jessica DeFreitas as the determined to escape character of Saima (also a wonderful name for a character!), and Jake Head as William who commands the stage with such ease that his performance was wholeheartedly believable.
What becomes apparent throughout The Red Helicopter is the level of commitment and achievement the Young Friend’s scheme have done through the course of the rehearsals and training at the Almedia Theatre. There are several scenes which interweave rthymic melodies worthy of Stomp!, with everything from filing cabinets and dustbin lids used to beat catchy rhythms. This is then overlapped with choral singing and even at one point some rather funky break dancing from Miles Keen. This is certainly one talented group of performers.
Yet it would be unfair to state that there are actors who aren’t as good as others in this performance. The level of commitment from Josie Roughneen as the mute Andrea is a joy to watch, and Zakiyah Rawt certainly knows how to command the stage as the boisterous Zadie. Likewise Nina Chograshi, Nickcolia King-N’Da, Robert Ristic, Omar Choudhury and Emma Tye show how as supporting cast members they can maintain an energy throughout the performance that delivers time and time again – they prove that as an ensemble they know their stuff – and show us, the audience too.
Whilst I found the ending of The Red Helicopter a little bit too gun happy – the themes and backwards look at society really makes you ponder the value of the relationships within society you have. What if we suddenly found ourselves in direct contact with the Prime Minister and his ruling from within his central office – would we go as far as to question his doing, especially if we knew it was wrong/dishonest? Or would we be a sheep and follow the crowd before us.
For a group of young people working on a play specifically written for them to be performed in one of London’s most well-known Off-Westend theatres it is no easy task, and without a doubt these young people pulled it off. There were laughter, gasps, disgust and a sense of pride beaming from the audience, and I for one am glad I was part of the experience.
If you are interested in the Young Friend of the Almedia LAB Company then see the Almedia website for more information. The scheme is open to young people between the ages of 15-22.