By Robert Nichols
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Set in a charity shop that could be straight off Stockton High Street, a cavalcade of passers-by, browsers and brow beaten charity shop workers discuss, dissect and even deride the subject of hand me downs.
The starting point is the white noise of all the contributors talking at once in the shop which makes for an impenetrable babble. Each layer is then peeled away and inspected one conversation at a time like perusing the clothes from the shelf. And so we enter the world of hand me downs and investigate how these items from the past constrain or are a boon to the present and future.
Amongst the characters a young fashionista receives a shocking revelation handed down from her PC and reacts violently against the labels of her wardrobe, made with the blood of third world sweat shop labour.
Two women enter the shop one revelling in the Mills and Boon and retro glam of the garments her "friend" sees it all rather differently, as other people’s trash. Their exchanges are highly amusing.
The drama was a mixture of spoken word, poetry and comedy but also transcript is acted out from interviews conducted with shop workers and passers by out in the streets of Stockton. During the interviews the public were questioned regarding their thoughts and feelings evoked by hand me downs. Snippets are in turn handed down from a giant screen behind the stage while the words reinterpreted through the mouth piece of the actors.
The whole project was auditioned, scripted and acted out in only three days. A remarkable achievement and it must surely have been a real challenge for all involved. Something of a leap but one that landed on firm ground in the main theatre of Arc on a Saturday night when the finished item was received as a triumph by the audience.
There was even a blog opened where people could contribute to the project. So, the whole project was highly interactive. Furthermore, the project didn’t end at the close of the show because on exiting the auditorium the audience were invited to enter a video booth and recount their thoughts on the show and also hand down their own experiences of hand me downs and heirlooms.
The production was an alliance between Monkfish Productions and Inua Ellams, an award winning artist up from That London and helping to gel this team of writers and actors in just half a week and focus them towards their big Saturday night performance.
All in all a bit of triumph that will hand down a legacy to Teesside and Arc’s creative quarter. Speaking with them afterwards, the performers and writers seemed to be buzzing. Some had never really contributed in a straight role before; all had made a real leap. They all seemed inspired to do more. An intensive three days then that should leave a hand me down legacy.
Written by Chris Stewart, Hollie McNish, Kirsten Luckins, Moxy Casimir, Sarah Henderson, Michael Hann, A J McKenna, Inua Ellams
Acted by: Chris Stewart, Ian Horn, Kirsten Luckins, Claire Morgan, Rockingham Dube, Sarah Henderson, Inua Ellams
(thanks to Tracy for help in writing this review)
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