Living Newspaper: Edition 2 – Royal Court

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers: Ryan Calais Cameron, Si’an Chen, Yuqun Fan, Tom Fowler, Nick Gill, Ruby Holder, Emteaz Hussain, Jammz, Yasmin Joseph, Anchuli Felicia King, Tife Kusoro, Mark Ravenhill, Ruby Thomas and Tom Wells.

When Lisa Hammond welcomes you to the second edition of Living Newspaper with the words ‘it’s been a bit of different week’ little did she know when this Royal Court production was filmed on Thursday that the week was far from done with us. Many of the sketches however are not affected by the fast-changing news coverage this week and draw instead on many of the familiar themes of recent months.

Like Edition One, this latest version of Living Newspaper is staged in and around the Royal Court space taking the digital-only audience to familiar areas like the Box Office, Bar and Jerwood theatres as well as the usually prohibited backstage areas including the Scenery Dock, Substage and lifts. So, while the promenade nature of the live production was sadly shelved by London’s leap from Tiers 2 to 4, the viewer can still journey around a building many will not have visited since March.

Living up to the Royal Court’s reputation for challenging, political theatre, this week’s Front Page is a rap by Jammz with additional material penned by Ryan Calais Cameron, Yasmin Joseph, Anchuli Felicia King, Tife Kusoro and Mark Ravenhill that leads with a ‘Tory scum’ chorus that punctuates the song. Staged in the Balcony, Circle and Stalls area of the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Jammz talks about the selfishness of MPs unwilling to feed children, the political lies and blurring of media and state that attempts to influence the public while referencing Grenfell, Black Lives Matter and the shamelessness of those in power.

There are a number of protest narratives this time including Joseph’s The Long Look and Long Listen which starts as a dance piece but evolves into three individuals discussing the overwhelming nature of the news and their capacity to take on any more negativity while acknowledging that material change has yet to arrive. Likewise, Calais Cameron’s The Blank Space combines physical performance and narrative with a discussion about the attention given to the Black Lives Matter movement with a determination to fight on.

The very best articles are those that best suit the digital presentation of this week’s show with Ruby Thomas’s fast-paced audio story The Weather Room about a climate change protestor suffering an existential crisis following her arrest, berating herself as the camera circles an increasingly smoky beach scene installation. Tom Fowler dramatises a series of calls between Jess and her Nan across the year revealing a generational separation in beliefs about the pandemic and the government’s trustworthiness that builds to an increasingly short but still friendly exchange between them.

Best of all is Emteaz Hussain’s Obituaries, a moving monologue about domestic violence and the unexpected connections between women using the same shelter poignantly delivered by Mariam Haque. Not everything lands so well and in a fast-moving political situation the Living Newspaper is unable to respond to the burning topicality of the week’s events. Yet with 14 pieces in total including some satirical material about preparing for demonstrations by King and a religious conspiracy theorist by Kusoro, there is enough variation in this 90-minute show to keep the pages turning.

Runs here until 27 December 2020

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