Something’s rotten in the district of Peckham: the job centre’s about to close, Linda’s cat is missing, Joey is confused and Lashanna and Ravi are up to something suspicious in Amir’s basement. Plus: what’s oily property developer James’s real agenda?
If you’re looking for the new ‘Jerusalem’, you’re not going to get it in ‘Peckham: The Soap Opera’. The clue is there in the name: this multi-writer project led by Bola Agbaje and Rachel De-Lahay is a loving homage to daytime TV soaps, performed by an SE15-sourced community cast of, er, variable acting ability.
The show’s biggest problem is a self-imposed one, namely that the style of programmes it apes are basically dreadful. The A-list writing team gives ‘Peckham’ a measure of wit and guts but it is, in essence, a series of episodic depictions of mundane high street life in which it takes one heck of a long time for anything to really happen.
In other words: it’s a soap, and if you’re okay with that then Ola Animashawun’s production is good fun. Nice, nasty or plain stupid, the characters and cast are winsome, and once the plot gets a head of steam it becomes trashily engrossing, with an enjoyably camp denouement. Zoe Hurwitz’s immersive living room set is a hoot.
It’s also got a lot of heart: a message about the ills of over-gentrification is cheerily rammed down our throats, and quite right too – right now the newly hip borough really is in danger of losing its old character. ‘Peckham: The Soap Opera’ is a mildly frivolous exercise in form, but it’s also a punchy piece of protest theatre.
By Andrzej Lukowski