Writers: Pamela Carter, Hester Chillingworth, Tim Crouch, Molly Davies, Amy Bethan Evans, Robert Alan Evans, Stacey Gregg, Rose Lewenstein, Simon Longman, Rory Mullarkey, Lettie Precious, Pavel Pryazhko, Testament, Joe Ward Munrow, Kit Withington and Rachael Young,
As the nation begins its phased exit from the pandemic, with lofty hearts and drunken merriment, Royal Court’s Edition 6 of its Living Newspaper provides a sober warning; do not get carried away. Approach our future with caution. The collection of writers covers a multitude of themes, from the personal to the political and the immediate to the global. And, while not all despair, the overarching tone of this edition is pretty bleak.
This should not act a deterrent; Edition 6 is provocative and stimulating. This radical news source speaks with unapologetic honesty. However, like a standard newspaper, there are still stand-out pieces you read again, aloud for the person next to you, and pages you wish to skim or skip. Testament’s Street Cred Report is one of the former, a piece which reimagines hip hop in light of the recent Report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Filmed in the theatre lift, Dorcas Sebuyange performs this satirical rap, tearing apart the Report line by line with the realities of racism spotlighted by rappers throughout history. Sebuyange’s controlled performance is as gripping as the ingeniously comic script, with lines such as “those mc’s would never poo-poo the po po” lingering as you move onto the next news piece.
The other social and political works that pack a punch include Stacey Gregg’s Flicking the Shamrock, a funny short piece driven by the recent violence in Ireland, and Joe Ward Munrow’s LIVE NEWS, a nuanced critique of the way we ‘fill up’ on bad news even as it ‘drains’ us. Lettie Precious’s I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS SHIT is a front-page-worthy reality check that, while most of us are wiping the pandemic from our memories one beer garden at a time, covid-19 has left devastating scars on those grieving. Simon Longman also handles grief and loneliness in his piece, performed captivatingly by Alan Williams, playing a man attempting to move on from the loss of his partner, through the distraction of dog poo, with humorous despair.
The feared future is returned to repeatedly in Edition 6. Pixels by Rachael Young poignantly explores how we move on, at first as an anxious individual and then as an anxious state, doomed to repeat history. Yet not all writers are demoralized. Kit Withington marks the reopening of the pubs, with an almost mythologising poetic celebration of their place in our lives. This it at odds with Lettie Precious’s message, but then, this realistically captures the conflicting news sections as well as our individual experiences.
Many of the other sections fail to grip or inspire. Life is Difficult and then You Die, by Rose Lewenstein, and NEURODIVERGE-AUNT, by Amy Bethan Evans, do not bring the humorous relief they intend to. The storytelling in Adventure Before Dementia by Molly Davies feels stale because worried phone calls to those shielding and Amazon deliveries have been shown countless times since the beginning of lockdown. Most disappointingly, The Front Page section This is Actually Live is slow and muddled, a poor introduction to some of the meaty content within.
Pavel Pryazhko revitalises Edition 6 in the final piece, Ribbons, a text-only blend of play, poetry and political commentary on the opposition to Lukashenko in Belarus. His command of language, symbolism and imagery is compelling; the scene he creates is subtle, free from sensationalism or dramatic conflict, but entirely charged. It is a reminder that this project, and the arts and theatre more widely, have and will continue to inform, educate and empower much more than the news media ever can.
Runs here until 2 May 2021