Little Revolution, Almeida, theatre review: Unintentionally self-indulgent

The piece has moral urgency but fails to send you out into the night avid to see social change

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The Independent Culture

This is the second high-profile verbatim piece about the riots that erupted in the summer of 2011. It's compiled, edited and shaped by Alecky Blythe, who rightly Olivier award-nominated for her book for the ground-breaking musical London Road which, in formally fascinating ways, set to music the documentary testimony provided by members of an Ipswich community trying to heal itself after the spate of prostitute murders in 2006. 

Moral ambivalence seems to be integral to her way of play-making — in terms of its method (the ethics of shoving a microphone at people while they are in crisis), its manner (in Little Revolution she deploys her signature technique of having actors simulate the accents, pace, intonation of their real-life characters whose recorded voices are relayed through an ear-piece), and its subject matter. 

But for all its self-reflexiveness knowingness, her art seems to raise issues of prurience and exploitation that leave one feeling uncomfortable over and above the discomfiture that designedly and legitimately prompts.

I think that I laughed out loud more than any other audience member at the press night of this specially in-the-round Almeida production, beautifully orchestrated by Joe Hill-Gibbins and teeming with sharply etched performances from a fine bunch of actors.

The show is very different from the Nicolas Kent/Gillian Slovo verbatim play The Riots presented in November of 2011 just four months.  The Tricycle team were stung into swift, trenchant action by the Government's refusal to hold a public enquiry. 

This has a moral urgency to the piece which did not duck intensely difficult questions such as whether there is something defeatist and patronising about implying that unemployed, disaffected youth virtually have no choice but to loot shops when extremely questionable police action fires a starting gun, so to speak.

It's not that these issues are not addressed in Little Revolution whose very title is thought-provoking in this regard. But here with Blythe doing a consciously annoying self-caricature at the centre, the accent is so on the medium being the message as a class-divided tries to come together to raise money for repairs to the looted shop that  the show manages to feel as self-indulgent as it is belated and fails to send you out into the night avid to see social change.

4 Oct; 020 7359 4404