Many people hear the word one woman show and they immediately walk the other way.
Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, is the piece of verbatim theatre about the Los Angeles Riots that will make you turn back around, walk in to the pink theatre and gladly spend an hour and a half with Nina Bowers.
Directed by Ola Ince, the team brings back a show that was created over 20 years ago by Anna Deavere Smith, and makes it relevant for the diverse population of London.
The audience received name tags, where they should write down something they wanted to talk about. Immediately this gave everyone an ice breaker and gave them something to have in common as they prepared themselves to watch a piece about racial injustice. The sweet Bower talks to different audience members about the topic on their tag as they all get settled. She starts the show with some audience interaction, asks them questions about race and how much they know about the riots. She explains that she will act out 19 interviews from the original show, so within the first 5 minutes she’s managed to establish what the show will be and made everyone get a sense of togetherness.
Bowers really is the most impressive part of the show. Basically playing 19 different characters as she is all alone with the audience in the room. The light and sound worked very well with the atmosphere she was creating, surrounding the audience with the feeling of riot. At times it worked incredibly well, as there was complete darkness when an interview was anonymous, but at other times the riot transitions were mixed with a dance sequence, which didn’t go well with the genre.
The show really managed to put things in perspective. As the audience were listening to heartbreaking stories about Rodney King and Latasha Harlins, both people who have been cruelly subjected to racial injustice, Bower’s announced that it was time for a tea break – although there was no interval. There were cups with quotes and the audience had to spend 10 minutes talking to the people around them about the topic they had chosen on their tags. But no one could break out of the tense mood that had been created, so instead they continued the topic of race – clever if that was the intention.
Some of the stories were difficult to follow if you don’t know much about the topic already. It helped that they were all short and different, but the story line was difficult to find at times. The atmosphere was overpowering though and although you could argue that a show about the 1992 LA riots is not relevant anymore, the race issue is as relevant as ever. The show ended with projecting statistics that compared racial facts today from America to the U.K, which added a new level of relevance. The fact that the audience was made such a unit, made conversations about race so much less taboo, and that’s what you would hope to get out of a piece of theatre.
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