Battersea Arts Centre’s ‘London Stories’ is a simple idea, beautifully realised. It’s a lo-fi but slickly organised evening in which you’re sent on an odyssey through the vast Victorian town hall. On your travels you’ll hear seven true autobiographical stories from seven Londoners, scattered throughout BAC’s prodigious accumulation of nooks and crannies.
Audience members are randomly assigned one of five different ‘routes’, with each colour having its own associated set of stories. I get the impression that the colour can drastically affect your night – a friend who was assigned green complained that all of her stories were grindingly miserable, but mercifully that wasn’t the case with my (mellow) yellow.
From a sheepish dad’s tale of his son getting his head trapped in a bridge in Highgate Cemetery to a cheerful young woman of Pakistani origin performing her piece anonymously so her dad won’t find out that she’s married, my stories were wistful verging on the cheerful. Each performer has clearly been coached to the point they can deliver their tale interestingly and with confidence. But there’s not too much polish – several storytellers become very emotional, and you never forget something very intimate is being shared.
It’s a shame each story is over so quickly, and that in effect the night lasts barely an hour when there are so many stories left to be heard. But it would be churlish to suggest there was anything stingy about an evening marked by its heartwarming generosity.
By Andrzej Lukowski