Friday, 22 June 2012

Connections at the NT, Day 1

Throughout the festival we're offering young journalists the chance to report on the work taking place on the National Theatre's stages. Davina Odebunmi gives us her round up of the opening night.

So you think you’re a Superhero?, Writter by Paven Virk, Performed by Thomas Tallis School

Whilst watching this play I was curious as to whether an adult or a child wrote this play, which was written by Paven Virk, performed by the energetic children of Thomas Tallis School, my suspicions were confirmed when a young lady walked onto the stage who claimed the title as writer of this play.
Set in the futuristic ‘Planet Zola’, and in the prestigious Sports Academy this a place where headstrong children are left to their own devices, it is here we see the wild and adventurous imagination of the writer her aim to create an unrealistic world, allowing the audience to delve into perfect escapism and enjoy the humorous dialogues of the character’s. The interjections of popular culture music such as Beyonce’s ‘Put a ring on it’ allows the children to show off their dance moves particularly funny when they shake their bottoms to this music or when their bouncing their heads to Kylie Minogue ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. The rapper of the group funnily recites the name of every sport in alphabetical order, depicting a young Eminem gone wrong with his fake ‘bling’ around his neck.  
Photo: Simon Annand
As the young actors get into character I, like the other adults in the audience, are in awe of these children who are as young as 11, their passion and enthusiasm helps to engage the audience bringing each character to life. The best parts of the play include the freezing of the other children as the secret superhero relies on the advanced technology of his watch to give her fake identities so the other children don’t question his motives. The ending brings together the struggle of the superhero in reaching Olympic success and him truly embracing  his superhero identity by encouraging a fellow member of the Sports academy from going from always finishing at 3rd place in races to winning. All in all this play was a dramatic, enthusiastic and witty play.

Generation Next, Written by Meera Syal, Performed by Sindhi Association UK, Essex

Having the privilege of getting to watch the cast of this play rehearse and later interview some them, gave me great insight into the narrative structure of the play, how it works  and it’s cultural and political relevance. First speaking to Ravi Rajani (23) who plays Ricky I learnt that he kind of ‘fell into acting’ and this being his 4th Amateur play, in the play he displays amazing talent and believability. As the audience we grow to be annoyed at his character’s personality being pompous, loud-mouthed, dim-witted with limited intelligence. As he tells the audience that he is preparing for his ‘re-re-re business re-take’ we come to think of him as frivolous, irresponsible and stupid. It is any wonder why the caring Areena married him. Cleverly, writer Meera Syal made this play original by showing how culture has progressed since 1979, 2005 and 2035 and also getting the actors to explicitly show how their same character has evolved or not. Central to the stereotypical fundamentalist Asian culture assumption is that wives have to assume the submissive role in their relationships. 

Photo: Simon Annand

We see the most change in Anita who goes from being unmarried and ashamed in 1979, to being bold and a strong advocate for women’s rights, this does not affect her actress friend Areena, who is excited to recite sexy lines in an advert, whilst she critiques her friend’s choice of shoes referring them to be lesbian. The scenes of Neera and Vip  on opposite ends of the stage is stage brilliantly as they take separate calls we gain a real insight into their character’s separately. We learn that Neera is hysterical, whines a lot and argumentative as she speaks to a company in India hoping to return there soon. Vip appears family –orientated and wants to make his mum proud. As the play draws to a close and the couple Vip and Neera say goodbye and prepare to leave for India we learn that Anita with her feminist ways finds love in Kieran and the story is left with some ambiguity making it more believable as the audience ponder on what the future has in store for these young couples.

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