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You can’t stop the boats: Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea @ParkTheatre

Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea by Italian playwright Emanuele Aldrovandi and translated by Marco Young, has made a topical return to London at the Park Theatre after playing earlier this summer at the Seven Dials Playhouse. In a week when leaders and leaders in waiting were talking about illegal immigration, it seemed like a topical choice . It also has one hell of an evocative title. The piece opens with Adriano Celantano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol , which sets the scene for what we are about to see. After all, a song about communication barriers seems perfect for a play about people trafficking and illegal immigration. One side doesn’t understand why they happen, and the other still comes regardless of the latest government announcement / slogan .  However, the twist here is that the crossing is undertaken the other way. People are fleeing Europe instead of escaping war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East. It’s set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There is a crisis causing p

Dark Neighbourhoods: Union @Arcolatheatre

A journey through the dystopia known as modern-day London - or at least the stops of gentrification along the Grand Union canal - is at the heart of Union—a provocative look at change, urban renewal and sanitisation. Written by Max Wilkinson, it's currently playing at the Arcola Theatre

The premise is that successful property developer Saskia (Dominique Tipper) is about to sign the deal of her career. She is at the peak of her career and the height of her physical appearance. She asks the audience to check out her stomach as you could "eat an egg off that". But tonight, something isn't quite right. She has decided to go for a run along the Union Canal. She is ignoring calls from her boss and her partner. Having flashbacks and meeting characters along the canal forces her to confront some hard truths. 

It's a fast-paced show with a breathless performance by Tipper in the lead role. She conveys the madness, the enthusiasm and the contradictions of living and working in London. Anyone who has worked in a communications or engagement role (and who hasn't in London?) could see her perspective. Her role in the development company is to do community engagement, ensuring that people disrupted or (even worse) displaced feel good about the developments. Yet the characters along her journey along the canal point out that everything seems the same. The characters are all played by two actors - Sorcha Kennedy and Andrew Bullock -and they keep the momentum through a series of fast-paced changes.

While writer Max Wilkinson puts the developers in the firing line, building blandness and upheaval across London is not just their fault. Geography, low density, an over-regulated planning regime and a dogmatic affection for the green belt are other contributors to the housing crisis. And looking at the more recent regeneration exercises such as Dubai on Thames (otherwise known as Nine Elms), looks more like they have created an outer London suburb in the centre of London. Bereft of shops, people and just another dark neighbourhood - not a place for living but just a place to park your money. All of this probably is beyond the limits of an 80-minute comedy drama. Watching the piece in the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, which has undergone significant urban renewal in the past 20 years with it’s own hip bars and restaurants, also seems unintentionally ironic. 

However what lingers is the vivid depictions of a time and place. It feels like your own Saskia's journey with her. And regardless of its message about change, it's a hell of a time. 

Directed by Wiebke Green, Union, as at the Arcola Theatre until 12 August.


Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

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