Theatres don’t usually look like furniture shops. But arriving at the venue for the Royal Court’s new venture, that is exactly what it looks like.
In fact, the venue is a disused lot at the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, and the venture is Theatre Local, a season of work presented by the Royal Court in this unusual space at the heart of a local community.
Sofas and mismatched chairs occupy the floor, providing seating for the audience of Random, the 2008 play by Debbie Tucker Green which opens the Theatre Local season.
There is little else in the room. A couple of rudimentary stage lights are the only accessories to the play, a monologue performed by Seroca Davis, who begins her performance by entering through the shop door, standing within touching distance of the audience throughout.
Through the shop windows’ opaque blinds, shadow outlines of shoppers are visible, while a cacophony of shrieks, laughter and distant voices provides an inadvertent soundtrack to the performance.
But this does not distract damagingly from Green’s play, which tells of the consequences of random, senseless street crime on the members of one city-dwelling black family, whose world is sliced wide open by a visit from the police one otherwise normal working day.
Playing all manner of characters, Davis enacts their lives without the aid of props, music or sound effects, bringing both humour and pathos to this sadly relevant story, which resonates even more away from the moneyed environs of Sloane Square.
A decent crowd turned out for this opening production in the Theatre Local season. It will be interesting to see if the project can continue to entice shoppers away from the cafes, the supermarkets and the discount stores with the prospect of sitting in a comfy sofa and seeing the whites of an actor’s eyes.