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An intimate glimpse of personal tragedy
By Benedict Kent
Despite being told that Look Left Look Right's latest production would be performed in a caravan, my initial reaction was still, 'I hope we get good seats'.
The Caravan pitches up at the New Wolsey
It was only when inside, packed knee to knee with seven similarly bemused and intrigued audience members that the full intimacy of the performance hit me.
The aptly named The Caravan presents the true stories of English flood victims who were confined to mobile accommodation by the 2007 flooding.
Over the following year around 2000 people were left stranded in caravans, angry and frustrated with the reactions of local bureaucracies. This play invites audiences to literally step into the reality of their world and to share in their testimonies.
The cramped proximity of actors and audience immediately encourages an appreciation of the claustrophobic lives led by flood victims.
From the moment the first actor entered the caravan I was exhilarated by the space that both actors and audience were permitted to share. We were performed for, with and around as the characters shared their photos and stories with us.
Their tales were both entertaining and moving, from a man who complains that he can't even look at a bottle of Evian anymore, to a couple who believe a recent miscarriage may have been caused by their stressful living conditions.
And they are not merely recited stories.
The Caravan treats audiences to a master class in characterisation as the actors switch seamlessly between roles. Each is developed to perfection; the differing regional accents, mannerisms and gestures are performed so naturally that audiences could almost be listening to the flood victims themselves.
Flooding in 2007
In particular, Sanchia McCormack and Davies Palmer's portrayal of a middle-aged couple conveys a warmth and truth as they apologetically admit their high compensation package compared to that of their neighbours. The various characters show the resilience of ordinary people as they each struggle to make do with what they have.
I enjoyed having time before the performance to explore the transcripts and tape recordings of the original interviews. These inform and contribute to the honesty of the play.
Being a verbatim performance, the delivery of speech is so close to naturalism that I could have been sitting in a reality TV show but at times is also surprisingly lyrical.
The Caravan's intimate portrayal encourages participation with stories that are too often forgotten. It pushes the boundaries of audience involvement and subtly questions our readiness for future crises.
I was captured by the compelling testimonies and the honesty with which they were told.
The experience is both uncomfortable and warming as one is invited to share a cup of tea with and listen to the stories of 12 very ordinary people having to cope in some of the toughest of living conditions.
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last updated: 03/06/2009 at 14:40
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