I Think We Are Alone at Theatre Royal Stratford East
Frantic Assembly, the much loved and respected physical theatre company are marking its 25th anniversary with a production of I Think We Are Alone, which is touring the UK and has just opened in London at Theatre Royal Stratford East.
I always look forward to seeing Frantic Assembly’s work, they’re consistently on the forefront of innovative physical theatre, working collaboratively to tell stories that are visual, bold, dynamic and remarkably tender.
I Think We Are Alone written by Sally Abbot is less physically driven than their previous work, although it’s wonderfully fluid and creates a web of poignant interweaving stories that slowly unfold revealing the depth of human fragility as a result of loss, expectations and life’s disappointments.
Morgan Large’s stark set uses mobile translucent perspex panels to create depth, shadows, and illusions; these are beautifully lit by Paul Keogan enabling the piece to flow, especially effective when depicting a river.
Affectingly directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham, six lonely Londoners play out their personal stories. There’s cynical garage receptionist and black Lewisham proud mum Josie (brilliantly portrayed by Chizzy Akudolu) and her son Manny (Caleb Roberts) who has surpassed expectations by going to Trinity College, Cambridge. Josie reminds us of the way parents have the tendency to live through their children, not wanting them to make the same mistakes they have, longing for them to seize and run with life’s opportunities. A compassionate hospice worker Ange, heart-wrenching played by Charlotte Bate, holds unresolved family secrets and is estranged from her sister. Ange finds her release in a druggy techno club haze whereas her sister, HR manager Clare (the very watchable Polly Frame) is struggling with her job and her relationship; she can’t sleep and finds solace in a bottle of wine. Black cab driver and father of two, Graham (Andrew Turner), is muddling through after the death of wife longing for someone to talk to, and young mum Bex is battling breast cancer.
This production doesn’t really break new ground, ultimately it portrays a series of archetypical characters experiencing everyday life stories and searching for connections. Bit by bit characters and narratives piece together, themes of loneliness and death pervade and somewhere in the mesh of life, human contact and understanding become paramount. I wanted more of what Frantic is good at, sweeping choreography and a synchronised physical theatre that carries you away.
I Think We Are Alone is a bittersweet play which proves to be tender, funny and heart-warming. It gradually draws you in and you can’t help but become emotionally invested… and by the end, it would take a tough cookie not to crumble.
Until 21st March at Theatre Royal Stratford East
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Gerry Raffles Square
Box Office: 020 8534 0310
Also showing in London at the moment and highly recommended is Meat at Theatre503 – check our review