Battersea Arts Centre
The building that houses the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) is worth a visit alone. The welcoming theatre bar has period features and a kind of threadbare feel with a little old school opulence thrown into the mix. It is the sort of place you can imagine up and coming playwrights choose to come and mingle, waiting to see a performance or simply to soak up the theatrical ambiance.
As the audience files into the theatre a simple set sits before us; a white chair and a small table sit in the centre of a black stage. The music in the background ranges from drum and bass to melodic Caribbean reggae, setting the scene for the ambitious production both written and performed by Zena Edwards.
Security is Edwards' theatrical debut but it doesn't show. As the sole performer Edwards delivers a convincing, raw performance full of passion and conviction.
Edwards is not one to shy away from challenging and controversial issues, indeed the press release boasts that it covers London knife crime, nationality, intergenerational tension and neuroses, encompassing some pretty hefty grand narratives of contemporary society. It doesn't disappoint.
Each character is vulnerable, demonstrably scarred by the experiences they have had thrust upon them in their lives. There is a cross section of society, not exhaustive but exploring several of the key ethnic groups that call London home.
Assisted by only a few visual cues Edwards nimbly springs from one character to another, each as comic as they are tragic, as clichéd as they are real.
Security explores the seen and the unseen, the real and the metaphysical. The play illuminates the multilayered nature of life through the metaphysical musings of one young thoughtful character, contrasted with the practical mature perspective of another character of a much older generation. Edwards gives both voices credibility, implying that every generation has both something to teach and learn.
Through a range of songs, rapping and monologues Edwards delivers an absorbing performance. There is no backing music throughout the play, Edwards uses her versatile voice to create the sounds that range from human beat box to conventional singing. She is dresses simply in black with white pumps on her feet. It is testament to her on stage presence that the audience is rapt for the 70 or so minutes of the performance with no breaks.
Stimulating, comic and moving, this production is well worth a visit.
Running until 29th November
Reviewer: Eva Ritchie