Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith, Gate Theatre, 12 January 2018

I’m so often saying how wonderful The Gate Theatre is under Ellen McDougall’s new regime, I’m starting to bore myself by saying it.

We loved The Unknown Island…

The Unknown Island adapted from a short story by José Saramago, Gate Theatre, 29 September 2017

…we loved Suzy Storck…

Suzy Storck by Magali Mougel, Gate Theatre, 10 November 2017

…and now I’m not going to surprise you by saying that we thought this production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 was also superb.

We nearly didn’t book it – we wondered whether this was overly heavy subject matter for us on a Friday evening and whether the 1991/1992 news aspect of it (the aftermath of the Latasha Harlins killing, the Rodney King video/policemen’s trial and the resulting riots) might make this verbatim play seem dated.

But in this post-truth, crazy era of ours the piece seemed eerily topical and prescient.

We arrived to a heaving lobby – there was a large party of Americans on a London Theatre marathon who had virtually bought out the house for the night.

Turned out the Americans were an exceptionally friendly and polite bunch who pretty much pushed us to the front to collect our tickets, apologising for the fact that they were a huge bunch of visitors preventing the locals from getting their tickets. Perhaps Janie and I had “make way/Brexity” expressions on our faces when we came in from the wind-chill-factor-enhanced bitter cold.

When we got to the front, apart from the ticket desk chap, the only faces that looked as though they might not be the American party were Daisy Cooper from the Gate production team (whom I mistook for an actress) and Caoilfhionn Dunne who had played Suzy Storck, but to whom I couldn’t say, “good evening Caoilfhionn” because I couldn’t remember how to pronounce her name; it’s pronounced “kay-lean”, btw. I did get a chance to congratulate her on her stellar Suzy Storck performance just before we all went in.

The ticket man didn’t give us tickets, he gave us badges to wear and a pen with which to label up the badges. I emblazoned mine thus:

At Janie’s request, I emblazoned hers with the name, “Daisy”, plus her talk about topic, “life”.

Daisy Cooper pointed out that her name was Daisy too.

On to the show, which is a one woman performance.

The actress, Nina Bowers, was superb. I have had to do some real detective work to discover her identity, though, as there was no leaflet on the night and at the time of writing (14 January 2018) the Gate website is silent on that matter.

There is an excellent preview piece by Ellen McDougall – click here – which says watch this space for cast…

…but on the main resource for this production – click here – at the time of writing, only the creatives are listed, not poor Nina Bowers, who has to play 20 parts all by herself and plays them brilliantly well. I guess the piece is about injustice and powerlessness in the face of such injustice, so perhaps Nina Bowers will enjoy the irony of her credit’s omission…

…or perhaps the injustice will have been put right by the time you read this Ogblog piece.

Nina even serves intermission drinks and biscuits to the audience – yes really. In fact, this is a performance without a real interval, but for 10 minutes towards the end of the show, the piece itself has a short intermission for tea, biscuits and conversation around the subject matter on our badges.

Janie and I chatted with a charming young American woman who turned out to be one of a handful of the audience who, like us, was not with the large party of New Jersey-folk. She was in fact from Orange County – not too far from the location of the riots but far too young to remember them. She must have been mighty confused when she asked about my fish, because I told her that my pet goldfish, Simon, had died and Daisy told her that my koi carp was named Peter and had gone down the plug hole.

No-one asked Daisy about life, probably because she had put her badge on upside down which made it quite hard to read.

If this all sounds silly and superficial, please do not be deceived by my ramblings and please do not be put off this play/production.

It is seriously well worth seeing – a very well-crafted piece of verbatim theatre about the terrible injustices that played out in Los Angeles in 1991 and 1992 which led to the riots, some further injustices and eventually an element of correcting some of the injustices and reconciliation. The USA has not eradicated the culture that led to those injustices and the subject matter seemed all-too relevant today.

I cooked a pasta dish for Janie after the show, using an excellent Speck sauce. We did not talk about fish and we did not talk about life – we were talking about Twilight: Los Angeles 1992.

Highly recommended, this play/production.

Cast – Nina Bowers – playing all the parts – remember where you read her name first.

R And D by Simon Vinnicombe, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 1 October 2016

I really liked this short play downstairs at the Hampstead. Janie found the subject matter rather too weird and felt she couldn’t relate to it.

The central characters are two brothers; one a writer, bereaved just under a year before the start of the play, the other a geeky scientist whose company is secretly developing a world-beating sentient, anthropomorphic robot, in the form of a rather attractive and spirited young woman. Take it from there.

I liked the drama of it and also the ethical dilemmas that got an airing through the story. It’s a short play, perhaps 75 minutes. It was very well acted.

There is an excellent stub with all the information you might want about the play and production – here.

No formal reviews at Hampstead Downstairs, but the audience shout outs on the above stub are very positive.

Janie was that set against it but she sees the idea of sentient anthropomorphic robots as being way too futuristic. Personally, I think we’re getting mighty close to such technology – perhaps within 10 years; certainly our lifetimes, unless our lives are cut short.

Anyway, Janie was mollified by some excellent Chinese food from Four Seasons afterwards, so all was not lost for her as an evening, not by any stretch.