Smart, not entirely successful verbatim play following the fate of the residents of the Beaumont Estate Towers in Leyton
‘You can never go home again’. It’s a truism, almost a cliché, but it’s a bald fact here. In this update of their 2006 show ‘Home’, Offstage Theatre have returned to the Beaumont Estate in east London. In 2005, they interviewed residents shortly before the estate’s high-rise towers were demolished. ‘Re:Home’ catches up with those who were relocated afterwards.
What’s good about this production is how it puts its makers in the crosshairs. Pages of transcript are stuck to the Yard’s walls, screwed up or scribbled on. We get performances of the interviewers’ voices: posh, uncertain, fumbling over their questions as they speak to Beaumont’s former and current residents. It’s a welcome reflection on the constructed nature of verbatim theatre.
And Cressida Brown’s show – which loosely tracks the fates of a group of estate kids interviewed the first time – is even-handed in its approach. It shows the contradictions and gaps. We get a kaleidoscope of people and memories that, as assembled here, gestures at wider social failings, but which avoids becoming a reductive portrayal of life on the estate.
The downside is that it can be a confusing watch, as a flurry of voices are presented to us – at speed – in brief scenes. A little too often, the effect is to direct our energies towards just keeping up with who’s talking now, rather than paying attention to the words. In its attempt to convey the complexity of community, this production sometimes loses focus as theatre.
In many ways, 'Re:Home' (performed brilliantly by a versatile, four-strong cast) is a ghost story. Like the dead inhabitants the kids first say they’ve seen on the top floors, the rundown Beaumont Towers now haunt London. The recollections are funny, sad and tragic. One of those original kids has since been killed. And while many relocated residents feel better off, loss lingers.