Yellow House
A one off performance at Gostin’s Buildings, 32-36 Hanover Street
Tuesday 13th August 2013

Review and Photos by Redskye

We waited patiently in a random non-queuing manner - friends, family and the invited. Outside the room a sign on the easel states “EXTREMES – HIDE THE MOON, HIDE THE STARS, SOMETHING TERRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN”. As we passed into the room someone said; “look!” Under the easel was someone lying on the floor in a blanket, we hadn’t noticed this while waiting, this immediately challenged us to consider the forgotten homelessness as we entered the room.

With ‘Extremes’ numerous issues are opened up and challenged. I’m not one for theatre and certainly not political theatre as it often leaves me feeling emotionally numb about the subject. However this is not how I felt with ‘Extremes’ at any point. The performance which lasted a full hour and half without a break was engaging and never left me bored or counting the minutes.

We enter and sit in a calming and informal performance space with a muted yellow back-lit curtain, not the often total darkness of traditional theatre. Firstly on walks the young man who had been lying under the easel at the entrance. His character “Benno” is the central character who never speaks or leaves the stage, on the right throughout the performance is a screen constantly showing the written report of the recent death of a physically abused small child which numerous government and council services monitored but failed to care enough to stop.

The performance is broken down into various set pieces each with a large projected headline above the stage, the first ‘Worthless’ is introduced and illustrated by the youthful cast glumly standing frozen behind, looking down on the central character Benno who lies on the floor. This forced us to consider and evaluate the situation represented in front of us. There’s a mechanical sound in the background, I hadn’t noticed who or what was making it, I then saw it was a woman with a grinder, representing how young people are constantly ground down in modern Britain.

Benno has a blank white sheet around his shoulders and after each headline representation and performance of an issue grinding down young people upon it is written a single word statement. Benno becomes the constant illustration of numerous labels written upon him, ‘failure’, ‘lonely’, ‘depressed’ and ‘weak’. Headline issues raised include “BULLYING”; “DISABILITY”; “DIFFICULTIES” and “OUTCAST”. In between the group performances are a couple of very personal contributions from a few of the actors informing us of their difficulties overcoming a disability along with the emotional, social and economic obstacles they’ve had to overcome in finding their place in an increasingly hostile and fragmenting society. These personal insights took great courage to stand up and speak about to their friends, family and strangers in the audience, but they illustrated many young people’s concerns which are cast aside and unheard.

George McCain, founder of the Yellow House, appears as a ‘Moses’ like pathfinder character with his big walking stick, to the left of the stage is the ‘head mistress’ like grinder character representing the ruling class who is a constant stage presence. The grinder character moves centre stage and bangs the floor with her big stick before telling the ‘frozen’ characters to “move on, move on”. Grinder passes dismissive and condescending comments on real newspaper stories contained in envelopes hidden amongst the audience before screwing them up and throwing them on the floor. The pathfinder comes on and picks up these discarded newspaper stories and reads them aloud to the audience. The suggestion is that none of these stories should be forgotten or thrown aside out of hand.

The last third of the performance offers us some positive alternatives and ideas that challenge the way our society is operating against vulnerable people - but most particularly young vulnerable people. Positive headlines projected above the stage are “INCLUDED”; “FRIENDS”; “LOVED” and “ACHIEVEMENTS”.

EXTREMES was an amazing performance, Yellow House stands out for me as an example of how art and creativity can and should be at the forefront of challenging oppressive government policy and deluge of media propaganda against our young, homeless, sick, disabled and unemployed – in short the entire working class.

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