Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/788/17731
Play review: Sandpits Avenue/League of St George
"You kiss a lot of frogs in fringe theatre," said one audience member. "But this one is definitely a prince." London's latest 'new writing' house, the Hope Theatre, has just opened in Islington. And audiences could hardly hope for finer inaugural offerings than Sandpits Avenue and League of St George.
Nestled above the Hope and Anchor, the venue is London's newest pub theatre, launched by the oldest - the King's Head, just down the road. The new venue was previously key to the punk scene. Madness recorded a video there, and The Stranglers an entire live album.
But more impressive still is its commitment to arts workers. The King's Head and the Hope are two of the few fringe theatres to have in-house agreements with entertainers' union Equity. Every performer and stage manager at the Hope receives a low, but union-agreed wage. This might not seem much, but is a huge step forward for many young workers in the industry.
The evening opens with Nathalie Wain's heartfelt, pulsating drama Sandpits Avenue. Five working class youngsters in England's South West have their lives and ambitions crushed by the effects of austerity.
Two join the army to escape boredom and unemployment. Only one returns. But he, his fiancée and their friends find their relationships torn apart by what happened in between.
Exciting and hypnotic, the ensemble puts performance poetry alongside physical theatre, and nu-folk next to beatboxing, with impressive élan - and real, raw honesty.
After the interval is an explosive live rendition of Cock Sparrer's punk anthem "England Belongs to Me". League of St George by Georgia Bliss is an exhilarating, raucous romp set in 70s and 80s working class Dagenham.
The titular league is a National Front-like street fighting firm. Action surrounds young member Adam, who is gay. Loud, rude, and very funny, League of St George is part punk set, with brilliantly observed dialogue, and joyful improvisation. The cast handles softly compelling love scenes, and the serious conflicts Adam's double life creates, with equal aplomb.
Both these outstanding new shows are the work of artists trained at the groundbreaking (and communist-founded) East 15 Acting School. These angry and talented young performers tell the stories of people too often kept silent - us. Go and listen. You won't be disappointed.
Sandpits Avenue/League of St George. 19.30 most evenings until 30 November. The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, London N1 1RL.
Box Office: 0207 478 0160. www.thehopetheatre.com. Tickets £14 (£12 concessions)
In The Socialist 13 November 2013:
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