10 November 2010
by Chris Mullany
My companion turned to me at the end of the Old Vic Tunnels production, Platform, and said: ‘When you’ve lived in London for so long, you begin to think that there aren’t any more places to explore - and then something like this comes along and surprises you’.
And this production - basking in the kind of media attention that Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey summons at will - had plenty with which to surprise us.
The venue itself was almost reason enough to go - the play being set in the miles of dark, cavernous tunnels that lie, save for the distant rumbling of trains high above, in silent abandon under Waterloo station.
An imaginative plot peppered with witty dialogue played for the most part successfully with the line between cast and audience, in a way reminiscent of their London Bridge artistic neighbours, Shunt. And with well choreographed scenes that ranged from crowded tube trains to suicide attempts on Tower Bridge, to an ice cream van stuck in a snow blizzard near St
Thomas’ Hospital, the play kept you pretty much engaged for the over two hours you spent on your feet (and in our case, on a Monday night, so, excusing the pun, no mean feat).
The opening scenes are a little frustrating. If it’s designed to be art imitating life, then jostling around a tube carriage to get half a view of the action is almost too annoyingly effective. And some of the scenes drag just a little. But there are some real gems in this as well - a brilliantly performed rap in a heaving pub, the unremitting chaos of a trading floor, and a pack of diehard cyclists manically braving the rush hour traffic, which drew knowing chuckles from the assembled Londoners.
And this is what the play really drives at. Laid on ever so slightly thick, it nevertheless succeeds in taking an affectionate look at many of the clichés and stereotypes of London life, while hinting at a deeper truth about the collective experience of living in one of the world’s great capitals.
Much of its success in this respect stems from its cast - an enthusiastic blend of serious thesps and first or second timers, taking time out from their day jobs, or job seeking. The age range - from teenagers to septuagenarians - as well as the diversity of experience and background that such an eclectic mix brings, does even more perhaps than the plot to reflect back the many and varied colours of London life.
It’s here where I should declare an interest, as one of the cast is a fellow co-owner of this paper, so we were always likely to enjoy it. But the play is more than the sum of its parts, through plot, place and the pairing of experienced actors with equally committed amateurs - there should be more done in this vein, as it works well.
If you’re lucky enough to have free tickets to Platform, which runs to this Sunday, or fancy your chances queuing for returns - it’s well worth the visit. We emerged into the heavily graffitied underpasses on a chilly Monday night feeling, in the words of one very rough, but impressively ready cast member, “‘appy, ‘appy, ‘appy.”
The queue will open an hour before every performance. People will need to arrive at the Leake Street entrance of The Old Vic Tunnels and collect a numbered ticket. As long as you are back 15 minutes before the show starts, and there’s space, you’ll get to enjoy the show!
Evening performances take place every night until 14th November at 7.45pm (returns queue opens at 6.45pm). Matinee performances take place on Sat 13th and Sun 14th November at 2.30pm (returns queue opens at 1.30pm).
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