Writer: Silva Semerciyan
Director: Robert Shaw Cameron
Reviewer: Scott Stait
In a city thriving with new writing and a surfeit of audiences looking for thrilling theatre, it is easy to miss the iridescent gems that crop up from time to time. Theatre 503, the modest studio above The Latchmere pub in Battersea, is currently housing one such gem. Silva Semerciyan’s I and The Villiage, an anarchistic glance at rebellion, gun ownership and community, finds its strengths in strong writing, a buoyant cast and attentive direction from Robert Shaw Cameron.
Following the disparate story of Aimee Stright, a misunderstood teenager growing up in the small town of Van Vechten, Michigan, we watch a congregation of locals unpick the events that happened on the day she walked into church with a gun. Semerciyan’s unabashed script holds a stark mirror up to the gun laws of America and of private ownership of such a weapon, however the conversations between characters, particularly Aimee and her mother’s boyfriend, Randy, make this a very personal story, resisting the urge to preach either way.
Robert Cameron Shaw’s direction does great justice to the text, and married with Jess Curtis’ shrewd design we are able to become fully absorbed in Aimee’s vibrant yet damaged world. Spray paint and rollers serve not only as props but allow Aimee’s creativity to blossom during the play. A blank canvas of stark white coat both the stage and actors’ costumes, with only Aimee and the odd flash of staging emitting colour. Moments of chilling stillness are juxtaposed beautifully with riotous quarrels and tender exchanges.
Troubled Aimee is played with a vigorous energy by Chloe Harris, whose vulnerability and yearning are played with an assured accuracy. Stephanie Schonfield gives a touching performance as Robin, Aimee’s out-of-touch mother, and David Michaels’ trusting Randy adds strength to the company – a great touch having Michaels play both Randy and Aimee’s father, further blurring the lines of reality and memory. The other supporting characters are played by the same three actors, Charlotte Melia, Killian Macardle and Chereen Buckley, representing unruly teenagers, police officers, church congregation and at one point, a wardrobe. This is a real company piece however, and all six shine throughout.
It is refreshing to walk out of a theatre and to feel invigorated by not only a strong cast and direction, but a well-crafted piece of writing. Semerciyan gives us a genuinely engaging and affecting script, which deserves to be seen.
Runs until 4 July| PhotoNatalie Mitchell