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London Calling – Lockdown Theatre Company

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

 Writer and Director: Rohan Candappa

 There’s no perfect simile or metaphor for what’s happening to the population (local, national, global) at the moment. This pandemic and its impact is destabilising and disconcerting, and while there certainly is hope there is also a real lack of knowledge about what the future brings.

By no means the first to draw lines between today and the dangerous period of early-1940’s London, Rohan Candappa’s monologue with a song does try and go deeper to draw out the links while acknowledging the differences. His work to reveal similarities and lessons is provocative, political and touching. Performed, and set to music, by Guy Hughes, it’s the finale of a series of 20 films he created with other creative partners and performers during four months of Lockdown – a very productive use of time indeed.

At times Candappa falls into the 2020 cliche of invoking a Blitz spirit, of London exceptionalism and some basic nostalgia. He can’t be blamed for that – it’s in the air. However, he does go much deeper than most. In his explanations of the “crass parallel” he draws in the two times he recognises the romanticism and poetic licence he takes. He does create some interesting images – the specific places that bombs drop become the specific populations most at risk of a COVID infection. For a four week period of intensity (the periods before the 4th of October 1940 and the 24th of April 2020) Candappa compares death rates: COVID causes over a thousand more deaths in London over this heightened section of time.

His most acute observations come in recognising that “in any conflict, there’s the damage that’s been done, and the damage that’s waiting to be done.” What comes next? The unknowable nature of it is unnerving.

The music (from Hughes) is set alongside from the lyrics of a song, previously unheard, written in a scrapbook from an ARP Warden stationed on the Strand in 1940. There’s some truly violent and disturbing imagery in this song – the result of involvement in rescue efforts to pull bodies and bits of humans from bomb wreckage – but related in disarmingly everyday language. It’s hugely impactful, and effective.

London Calling is a bare bones bit of work – packing 17 minutes with great value from its insights and the addition of the haunting song. However, it feels a little overdone at times. A serious look to camera, slow and weighty delivery or words that slow the show down (“because we are London… You cannot break us… not then… not now… not now… not now.” makes it feel performative and takes the viewer out of being engaged in a great story to recognising that they’re being talked at).

A worthy end to an entertaining series – all available still on the Lockdown Theatre Company’s YouTube channel and all around 10-15 minutes long. The project’s mission is to tell interesting stories without much set-dressing. Candappa has hit the mark well with this one – though there’s a few elements that could be improved still.

Available here 

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A worthy end to an entertaining series

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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