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Living Newspaper: Edition 7 – Royal Court

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers: Blessing Adetunji, Fatima Kazmi, Tyreke Leslie, Naomi Lundie-Smith, Sam Pickering, TaichiShinokubo, and Ruby Stokes

Directors: Vicky Featherstone, Jasmyn Fisher-Ryner, Romana Flello, Ellie Fulcher, Ellie Horne, Ola Ince, Myah Jeffers, Philip Morris, Hamish Pirie, and Vishni Velada-Billson

Eventually, you just have to accept the next generation are on their way up and graciously give them the stage. The Royal Court’s final Living Newspaper session does just that, all written and performed by 14-21 year olds who share their work reflecting on the events of the past year in which love and lockdown are key themes. Combining dramatised scenes, music, poetry and dance, Edition 7 looks to the future.

In a year of heightened emotion, several of the ‘articles’ in this final performance are about love won and lost along with reflections on its consuming value. Tyreke Leslie’s 5-minute performance poem and rap entitled Heartbreak is a ferocious and emphatic ode to romance and the object of his affection, a person so perfect Leslie gushes about every aspect of her personality. ‘Love is the focus, love does these things’ he repeats over and over as the tone slowly changes from praise for this adored girl to feeling blinded, even cheated by love as the intensity of Heartbreak is reflected in the music and filming style.

Ruby Stokes is equally perturbed by the dating process, stuck on a terrible outing with an unsuitable man. In this fantastic piece entitled Paths: Unparalleled, Stokes explores the duel experience of self-serving UK politicians whose lives are ‘engraved with success’ while ordinary people must struggle to find their own path. Contained in the date format, Stokes’ 3-minute work is powerful and smart, asking how we overcome these obstacles but certain that we can achieve success our own way.

Naomi Lundie-Smith and Blessing Adetunji are far more optimistic about romance, writing what are essentially love letters to a partner. Summer Friends? by Lundie-Smith is a reflection on a happy summer spent in the company of the addressee, and while tube stations whizz by, the protagonist recalls a dreamlike summer while fearing a return to her privileged classmates. Adetunji’s Beyond Touch (of a) Screen shows the perspective of a couple about to be reunited for the first time on 21st June which interestingly cuts between their meeting on a busy street and their interior monologues as both reflect on the pressures to be physically attractive and a sensual need for touch after so long apart, which are echoed in the movement choices and Jessica Hung Han Yun’s soft but vividly coloured lighting.

The remaining pieces look at lockdown life and mental health including Fatima Kazmi’s Drunk in the Dream Wave, a nightmarish short play that explores parental alcoholism and the temptation to escape reality. Taichi Shinokubo’s Images asks questions about the obsession with reputation expressed through possessions while Sam Picking ploughs a similar furrow with a 7-minute existential crisis about writer’s block, legacy and the need to leave something important in the world.

Coming together for the last Front Page, the seven writers join forces with Renell Shaw to create Lockdown FM, a song that runs back through the key stories of the year and how they have affected individual behaviour. From breaking the Rule of Six to paying the same university fees for online courses, to protests, no physical contact and feeling ‘frozen in time’ in the London they are no longer allowed to enjoy. But it ends with hope that the months and years ahead bring fresh opportunities and change. So, all hail the next generation of theatre-makers, the future is in your hands.

Runs here until 9 May 2021

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