views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

A Working Title
Kentish Town Community Centre
29th August 2015

★★★☆☆

Publicity image for A Working Title

Photography provided by Original Impact Theatre Company

It's now somewhat of a cliché to do a show about the difficulties of the lives of the artists. Fair enough, there probably has never been as much pressure on 20-somethings to have it all, pressure that mostly comes from retailers to get people spending, which gets them earning etcetera etcetera and so on and suddenly we are all cogs in the ever-hungry capitalist machine. A Working Title doesn't look at The System or politics, however, but at its products: the overworked, underpaid, overambitious, under-appreciated, in-over-their-heads human beings who nevertheless struggle on. This topic has been a long-running idea in many ultra-urbanised settings (see Rent), and even explored before in the free-from-story form (see Edges), so it's a reasonable question, what more is there to add?

Well, this new show does at least manage to not feel derivative, though the company are admittedly taking ideas from precisely the same stock. The styles are well blended: dance, music, poetry, singing, along with acting and monologues. Whilst sometimes their content feels obvious, there are occasional moments of refreshing emotion. The Busker (Kieron Tufft) in particular delivers a poignant poem on the personal liberation found through music. Tufft is the only instrumentalist providing music, most of which is very harmonised adaptations of hits, with the odd original song. Unfortunately, the acoustics of the Kentish Town Community Centre's main hall are not up to the creative harmonies, which are sung well, but difficult to make out in that space.

Leaving the subject matter to one side for a moment, it's fair to say that all six are well-rounded performance-wise, so much so that I was convinced the stories actually were exactly those of the actors themselves, especially that of the struggling artist Kate (Megan Jenkins). Her upbeat sulkiness combined with sense of entitlement is very on point. Also relatable is the sentiment that school leaves us the impression that if you go to university and do something that you're good at then everything will be alright. Here I felt Bryony (Sophie Dean) was an unfortunate victim of "what do you want to do?" and missed out on the question "what do you want to do all day?" which is the question teachers should really be asking... Something everyone can probably sympathise with.

Personally I felt less sorry for those who made mistakes at the outset, namely Emily (Ellie Scanlan) who flees to London from her failed relationship on the other side of the world. Not entirely sure I understand her surprise at not winning in the romance department, especially when restricting herself to online matchmaking. Chrissy (Alexandria Anfield) falls in love with the wrong man, who leaves her for someone else: there's surely a whole play on its own in there, but the way this is told makes Chrissy sound silly and naïve.

Luke (Rhys Rodwell) has quite a different outlook from the rest: he seems to have a plan to escape the repetitiveness and could even be enjoying what he's doing. He gets stressed when he's late, he thinks all the time about where he is and how long everything takes: all in all, he doesn't need sympathy. His life is on track, and sometimes he feels lonely, but I'm afraid this doesn't make him special. I really liked his monologue which explained the series of levers connecting someone else's depression to their suicide to his train's lateness: in short, The Meta.

If there is solace to be found in the angst of London-life, surely it is to take a step back and marvel at the complexity of the whole. A Working Title reminds us to do just that.

A Working Title ran from 25th to 29th August 2015 at Kentish Town Community Centre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest station: Kentish Town (Northern)



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