Royal Court, London

Theatre review: Peckham: the Soap Opera - a piece of hyper local community theatre

2.00

 

“Something’s always going down in Peckham.” So grumbles one of the residents who both spiritedly diss and defend their neighbourhood in this show, exhibiting weariness with its constant soundtrack of police sirens or lack of jobs, but also a fierce local pride.

Actually, things are going down in Sloane Square: first staged in Peckham’s Bussey Building as part of the Royal Court’s Theatre Local project, the production has decamped to the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. 16 Peckham residents perform ten short ‘episodes’ written by ten Royal Court writers; these were staged and streamed online nightly in July, but are brought together now for an ‘omnibus’ edition.

It’s warm-hearted, hyper-local community theatre, played in front of photographs of the area. Peckham: the Soap Opera vibrantly stages a - probably idealised - community, with all the melodramatic rollercoastering of EastEnders; each episode has it’s blazing confrontations or cheating partners, dramas domestic in scale - a missing cat - or more explosive.

It’s a neat premise, but having so many writers - led by Bola Agbaje and Rachel De-lahay but also including Lucy Kirkwood - doesn’t work. Perhaps in bite-sized chunks it was moreish, but here you hunger for something meatiDaisyer; social issues are glanced at rather than grappled with, and characters barely developed before being passed to the next pen.

An evil property manager - a simplistic villain that Peckham residents, young playwrights and liberal audiences alike can comfortably unite against - identifies Peckham as “up and coming” after his hipster daughter moves there. He hatches a dastardly plan to tear down the hair salons, corner shops and jobcentres, to build luxury flats. She, accurately, points out that he’s “completely missing what makes this place cool” (while one writer satirises incoming white students, and their “ironic scotch eggs”, generally they’re not too sharply skewered). The unspoken irony is that shows like may be part of that gentrification - an altogether thornier knot than this light play really attempts to untie.

The non-professional cast give it their all, and there are good performances, as well as some ropey ones. Kola Bokinni exhibits natural comic timing as the hapless teenager Joey, and Alice Fofana is a feisty force of nature as the manipulative, street-sassy hairdresser Lashanna; Kemi Lofinmakin as her irrepressible colleague Chi-Chi injects warmth into what could have been a slangy stereotype. Her claim that she’s got a heart of gold, “like my earrings”, is at least half true.

To 14 September; 020 7565 5000

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices