Robert Tanitch reviews Little Revolution at Almeida, London N1
Alecky Blythe is probably best known as the author of the verbatim musical, London Road, which recorded the reaction to the murders of six prostitutes in Ipswich in 2006. It was a huge success at the National Theatre.
Her latest project is the riots in London in 2011, which, you may remember, were described by some of the people who took part, as the best time of their lives. She had gone on the streets of Hackney with her Dictaphone to record the voices, stories and responses of the community.
The Almeida has been transformed into the round so that the actors are up close and the audience can feel they are only a street away from the angry violent mob, brick throwing, burning cars and looting.
The cast is drawn from professional actors and the local community. Joe-Hill Gibbons’ production never frightens and the performances do not tell us anything new.
Blythe expects the actors to mimic exactly what she has recorded: every accent, every inflection, every pause, every stutter, every um, every ER, even every cough. She puts herself, giggles and all, centre stage and is willing to laugh at her expense.
Little Revolution concentrates on the riot and the follow-up and the way people rallied round to raise money for one shopkeeper. Somewhat surprisingly Blythe leaves out one of the most striking and memorable features of the riots: the way the community got together to clean up the streets.
The people Blythe actually recorded, if they come and see Little Revolution, may feel they have been stitched up, when they hear the audience laughing at them. The well-meaning middle-classes are constantly patronised and Ronni Ancona is particularly funny.