At a moment when theatreland is full of news of planned reopenings and hopes for the future, it is good to still be able to look at the cultural contributions that reflect on the recent past. Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now does just that by offering up five short tales of what life in Nottingham during lockdown has been like, stories that speak to the human impact of a global pandemic.
Writers Olu Alakija, Nathan Ellis, Amy Guyler and Emteaz Hussain take us through the full gamut of experiences – from volunteering at food banks to life as a delivery driver, students dealing with disrupted schooling and the strange ballet of getting a Covid safe Uber. And not only that, there’s a special short but spiky sketch from Alan Bennett performed by the luminous Frances De La Tour.
Marking out just how powerful digital theatre can be, Guyler’s Out of Stock opens the collection with extraordinary force. Julie Hesmondhalgh’s food bank volunteer sketches out the struggles of huge swathes of society through a hundred tiny insights, all magnified by personal grief as the story of her brother slowly emerges. Perfect in its intimacy.
Hussain’s Pimp My Ride also captures something special in how it scythes into notions of privilege and the speed with which prejudices take hold. And pondering how long-lasting the effects may be, Ellis’ Facts examines what the younger generation has gone through and what they might have lost, possibly forever.
And though it is just a few minutes long, Bennett’s Muriel is superbly well-constructed. It’s the type of piece about which the less said the better but I can say it is always a pleasure to see De La Tour. The direction across the pieces, by Adam Penford and Matthew Xia, is assured throughout, making this a high quality piece of digital theatre.
Still Life is streaming via Nottingham Playhouse until 24 June 2021.