DramaLondonReview

Mission – The Big House, London

Reviewer: Miriam Sallon

Writer: David Watson

Director: Maggie Norris

It generally feels like bad form to comment too much on the context, either physical or ideological, of a theatre production; it’s not about the surroundings or the company’s wider ethos, but rather what they put on the stage and how that leaves you feeling. But in this instance, it would be remiss not to. Working with care leavers – adults that have spent any time in care – The Big House creates theatre, with some intention of helping those with dramatic aspirations, but mostly with the intention of imbuing those experiences of confidence-building, team-work and playfulness so intrinsic to theatre, and so useful in “being a part of the world”, as protagonist Akaya aspires to be.

This intention is entirely present throughout Mission, impossible to untangle from the performances: There is so much power, energy and enthusiasm within the young cast which could only be got at in the kind of safe environment that The Big House has established.

David Watson’s script is also plenty powerful: a young woman is visited by an altruistic stranger in a three-piece suit who claims to see her true potential and wants to help her get sober and out of sex work – by enrolling her in a NASA programme. It’s pretty obvious this is a hallucination of some kind, but it’s not clear whose, or to what end.

The plot is a little baggy, but only by 10 minutes or so; 90 minutes is just a tiny bit too long to follow a completely surreal storyline.

The space itself is fantastic, a maze of echoey factory rooms, leading us through a little boy’s bedroom as he watches a rocket launch on TV, then to the edges of Akaya’s bedroom where she hosts her paying guests, and finally to designer Ingrid Hu’s main construction, a semi-transparent house within which most of the action takes place. The audience sits surrounding it, watching through the white walls and it gives the sensation of a hazy dream.

In the spirit of community and shared ownership, The Big House has chosen not to identify the main protagonists in the programme, but it should be noted that the lead role of Akaya was performed with crushing tenderness and a show of immense empathy that’s rare to see.

Mission feels more like a holistic experience than a simple theatre production; strange and entirely compelling, it makes a strong case for theatre and the arts, not just as a money-making industry, but as a tool for healing through storytelling.

Runs until 4 June 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Strange and entirely compelling

The Reviews Hub - London

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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2 Comments

  1. I worked hard to balance my admiration for this work with a critical stance that recognises the problems it had as a theatre statement. This review manages those things admirably. Huge props to Ms. Sallon.

  2. This review does a great job of balancing whole-hearted enthusiasm for the project, recognition of the energy and commitment of the actors, and a recognition of some of the raw edges of the piece.

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