One Hundred Trillion, Southwark Playhouse – Review

Taking its name from the number of synapses in the human brain, One Hundred Trillion is a series of short plays that were created through workshops with dementia peer groups in southeast London. Together, they represent a cross-section of experiences in the community.

The first of four plays, I Could Have Danced All Night celebrates a pastime that equally enjoyed by the young and the young at heart. Lee (Robert Hickson) loves to dance. Ever since he was a young man, he’s never been afraid to ‘strut his stuff’ – adapting his ‘unique’ choreography to anything. His ‘other half’ Dawn (Maggie Daniels) dearly loves him. However, she does worry about people laughing at them their wedding, so she talks him out of doing his ‘dance’ for her. But there are some things that can’t be unseen and like an ‘earworm’, resurface when least expected…

As well as being a catalyst for bonding, music and dancing subliminally triggers dormant memories. In the case of Lee and Dawn, an incident that potentially threatend to derail their ‘big day’ becomes a point of fond remembrance – proving to Lee decades later that his wife did take note and appreciate what he was trying to do for her.

Frames – the second play of the evening – continues the trend of remembrance, albeit from a different perspective. Rachel (Maggie Daniels) looks back at her relationship with husband James (Darrel Bailey) and how they first met. While she has strong feelings about the ups and downs of their marriage, her ‘memory’ (Sarah Northgraves) has something else to say on the matter.

Pretending to be the ‘blind date’ that James was meant to meet, there’s an instant chemstry between younger Rachel (Carys Wright) and James. While the beginning of their relationshp wasn’t built on the unadulterated truth, the rest of it was 100% based on mutual fidelity. Only Rachel’s memories have a few gaps in them…

Memories are the cornerstones of identity and relationships, and if they are ‘impaired’, it impacts on every corner of one’s life – including our emotional core. In the case of past/present Rachel, a moment of absolute lucidity brings perspective and reconciliation to a relationship that had previously been written off.

Topsoil – the third play of the evening – deals with endings and beginnings of a different sort. Sitting in an allottment, John (Robert Hickson) is lost in his thoughts while his sister-in-law is going through his late-wife’s things. Nearby, Joyce (Maggie Daniels) is attending to weeding. Topsoil goes to show that while the death of John’s wife is undoubtedly a tragic affair, Joyce is proof that life doesn’t stand still and that there is therapeutic value in holistic activities like gardening.

What makes this play particularly interesting is that while John is an elderly widower, he’s only been married for five years. The presence of his sister-in-law reminds him how much about his late wife he doesn’t know and the realisation that she had lived a ‘lifetime’ before their wedding. What ‘claim’ did he really have to her? The conversation Joyce and John have regarding losing their partners is both touching and grounded – a topic seldom broached on the British stage.

Closing the evening, the extravaganza that is London Bus is as energetic as it is unconventional. Beginning with Barry (Darrel Bailey) singing about ‘Matilda’ who has run off with his money, he hops on to a bus that’s making its way through south London, before venturing to… Brighton. An assortment of characters get on the bus and while they’re all interesting or funny in their own way, they are a representation of the diversity of London and who one might meet on a daily basis.

In between each of the plays, poems performed by Laura Harling frame the tales. With their references to London and the minutiae of life, they reminded me of the dialogue samples that link the songs on St Etienne albums.

© Michael Davis 2018

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One Hundred Trillion ran at Southwark Playhouse on 11th November.

RUNNING ORDER:
I Could Have Danced All Night by Margaret Perry & The Primrose Cafe (Bermondsey). Directed by Matthew Parker

Poem: Loving Feeling by the Dancing Daffs a.k.a. The Daffodill Cafe. Voiced by Laura Harling.

Frames by Chantelle Dusette and The Daffodill Cafe (Nunhead). Directed by Maja Milatovic-Ovadia.

Poem: Insights by Linkage Southwark (Dulwich). Voiced by Thomas Judd & Laura Harling.

One Hundred Trillion ran at Southwark Playhouse on 11th November.

RUNNING ORDER:
I Could Have Danced All Night by Margaret Perry & The Primrose Cafe (Bermondsey). Directed by Matthew Parker

Poem: Loving Feeling by the Dancing Daffs a.k.a. The Daffodill Cafe. Voiced by Laura Harling.

Topsoil by Lucy Grace and Link Age Southwark (Dulwich). Directed by Maja Milatovic-Ovadia.

Poem: Falling Asleep On The Bus by The Healthy Living Club. Voiced by Thomas Judd & Laura Harling.

London Bus by Lily Bevan and The Healthy Living Club (Stockwell). Directed by Laura Harling and Maja Milatovic-Ovadia.

CAST OF LONDON BUS
Barry (Darrel Bailey), Claris (Kudzanayi Chiwawa), George (Stuart Turner), Nurse (Kate Stirling), Gardener (Sarah Northgraves), Tom (Will Hartley), Busker (Thomas Judd), Esther (Casandra Hercules), Zoo Woman (Carys Wrightt), Dionisio (Robert Hickson), Roy the Activist (Christopher Lane), Traffic Woman/Perro (Maggie Daniels).

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