London Stories

Theatre, Experimental
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 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter
 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter
 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter
 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter
 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter
 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter
 (© John Hunter)
© John Hunter

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


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Natalia Gleason

London Stories Tonight I went to the theatre and I met six people. They talked to me about their life. Almost cried. Twice. Didn't know if clapping was proper. Sometimes I did clap. I clapped for the boy having bad dreams about prisons. I clapped for the girl working with autistic children. I clapped for the woman who admits to her guilt. Other times I said thank you. The thank you stories posessed me. She was perched on top of a bed and talked to me as if I was her dead husband. When I entered the room I was uncomfortable, she looked rough, it was dark, I was sitting on a strange bed next to a stranger, listening to this story that took hold of me with a force I was never anticipating. When she was done I wanted to hug her. But I had to leave. Thank you Jane. Next was an Ipad, this felt like cheating, the plastic of the headphones, the tiny screen in the theatrical event. But again, a fragile woman swept me away after i pushed play. I thought she might be the Londoner who loves London the most. I can't stop wishing her well. I hope she is not in the hospital any more. Thank you Eleanor. My penultimate para-theatrical encounter had Londons night skylight as the backdrop. In the right corner of the dark room sat the set designer with her candle. She spoke to us about her mother, and how to cry in London, how to me good at grief, the best at it in fact. Thank you Susannah. I came out of the room of reflection wanting to join the audience at the second show of the night. There were no tickets left. True story.