It is easy to live our lives in a place without ever being aware of its particular ecosystem, the special historical context that made it what it is and even shaped the way we lead our lives.
In an ambitious, at times lyrical monologue, Jenny Witzel pays homage to Deptford, “a London neighbourhood on the south bank of the River Thames”, where she lived on a boat from 2020.
It is a fascinating account that gently takes us through a history that includes her walk in high waders at low tide down Deptford Creek, where her guide would plunge “his hand into the mud time and time again, opening his fist to reveal a Chinese Mitten Crab, a family of leeches, a Lomnidrilus hoffmeisteri worm.” It's a complex system that evolved over many years that needs imposed change to be careful if it is to survive.
Her immersion into the neighbourhood reveals a unique picture of the human community of which half live in social housing.
It takes a long time to make a world but a very small set of decisions to destroy it. The final section of her show speaks about the Convoy’s Wharf development, “a forty-eight storey compound of luxury apartments, with no allocation for social housing,” on the site of the former Deptford Dockyard by the “Hutchison Property Group... owned by the 33rd richest person in the world.”
It was blocked by the local council for not involving the local community, but Boris Johnson overruled the council. It now seems likely that these new luxury homes will be sold on the international market, which might mean many will remain empty for years as investment opportunities.
Jenny Witzel refers to the work of Anita Strasser, who claims that, “the recent building boom in Deptford and across the UK has been a major driving force behind increases in homelessness levels—creating new living spaces for high earners but reducing the number of living spaces” for the less wealthy.
CREEKSHOW is a remarkably interesting if finally unsettling show, fairly unique in its structure, gently compassionate in its content and, importantly, sharp in its message.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna