The London housing crisis has been foregrounded for a while now, but it seems with the recent closure of businesses along Brixton’s arches and the rise of Pop Up Brixton, artisanal cocktail bars and the ever-invading food chains, many now fear that the regeneration within Brixton is all consuming and unstoppable.
In a verbatim piece, Where Will We Live?, Changing Face Collective has collected stories from local people whose existence will be challenged by the rampant change in housing, businesses and social make-up in Lambeth; these stories have subsequently been worked into a piece of theatre by playwright Elisabeth Winkler and director Lucy Curtis. The company has used the term ‘hyper-regeneration’ to describe the movement, suggestive of a frantic pace and irregular development, meaning that many residents will barely have time to process the change and put up a strong enough fight.
The verbatim piece is a woven tapestry of local voices that illustrate a desperate state of unease brought about by the sudden changes to their environment and lack of obvious pathways to go to seek advice. The performance makes a point of isolating Lambeth Council, labelling them as evasive and unable to give succinct answers to the people who come with questions in abundance. Where Will We Live? intentionally moves away from “dry facts or statistics”, to instead focus on the faces and stories of those who have made up Brixton’s culture.
As the audience walk in to the Little Space at Southwark Playhouse, they are accompanied by gentle drum beats that get progressively louder as the room starts to reach maximum occupation. Ayesha Casely-Hayford gyrates to the building rhythm, seemingly controlling the vibrancy with her hand gestures, she moves at one with the drumming of Brixton High Street.
For many visitors to Brixton, it is the sound that hits the hardest, with never end music stretching from the Ritzy down to Atlantic road; there isn’t a part of Brixton that doesn’t vibrate with music of instruments, arguments, preaching or pedestrian commentary. Noise seems to wholly belong in Brixton, and it is something that can resonate with anyone who goes there, making it the ideal starting point to start a discussion about what Brixton is and what is should become.
Over the course of the production, we hear from a multitude of South East Londoners, worried about the plight of their home turf, wondering what will happen to their homes and their families. The cast are joyful to watch and really bring to life each person’s story with ease and warmth.
Where Will We Live? is a familiar piece, both the identities and the stories resonate with us because we know people like them. It is not a unique conversation happening on the stage but it’s a mouthpiece for the conversations happening all over London at this moment in housing history, with very honest and urgent questions that desperately need answering. Changing Face Collective doesn’t really pose any solutions, nor does it offer a particularly sophisticated perspective on the housing crisis, but it does pay credit to the people that regeneration may smoother if no action is to be taken.
Where Will We Live is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 28 November. For tickets and further information, see the Southwark Playhouse website.