I do love what the Royal Court is doing with their Living Newspaper series, rapid-response pieces being created with a limited shelf-life creating a sense of urgency that isn’t always present with digital content, but spreading the week of availability over Christmas does feel a little tricky even if festive plans for so many of our plans were forced astray.
Nevertheless, I was able to get stuck into the second edition before the digital shredder cut in and I’m glad I did as it continues to be an entirely fascinating and engaging disruption of theatrical form. Adopting the various elements of a newspaper (horoscopes, dating columns, cartoons as well as news and opinion pieces) and delivering them from various nooks and crannies around the Royal Court building (the originally planned in-person experience would have been conducted in promenade), the result is fierce and fresh.
From the opening musical front page led by Jammz excoriating the government with a refrain of ‘Tory scum’ to a frankly hilarious agony aunt column delivered with deadpan frankness by Alex Austin, the series of vignettes are wonderfully vivid and varied enough to keep you ‘reading’ every page. I particularly enjoyed Mark Ravenhill’s typically close-to-the-bone cartoon to the tune of ‘All by Myself’ and Tom Wells’ Royal Court-ing, Hammed Animashaun and Lisa Hammond nailing the awkwardness of pandemic dating with Wells adding to his gallery of beautifully observed social misfits.
Emteaz Hussain’s take on Obituaries is searingly, searchingly powerful as performed with quiet grace by Mariam Haque, a real indictment of where our society has ended up. And Ryan Calais Cameron’s ‘The Blank Space’ is nothing short of extraordinary, its blend of dance, theatre and design making it feel like the quality of a regular Upstairs at the Court show, Moronkẹ Akinola and Ntonga Mwanza both excelling here. Living Newspaper might not feel like your regular theatre show but that’s kind of the point, it is something different, and exciting, and well worth investigating. Catch the next edition in January.