As part of the Women and War festival at Streatham Hill Theatre, I went to see a modern adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Adapted and directed by Luke Ofield and Pip O’Neill, it is set in a post-nuclear fallout in which a group of surviving women gather in a camp in the south of England. They include Hecuba, an MP, her daughters, Cassandra and Andromache, and assorted other women searching for normality in an increasingly uncertain world.
The women come into conflict with an ambassador and the military, who want to send them away, but they are determined to assert their independence. This clever adaptation is short but memorable, looking at how people might react in the face of crisis and how they might pull together. There are strong performances from all involved, particularly Elizabeth McNally as Hecuba, who struggles to hold on to power and maintain her dignity.
Baba’s War by Steffi Walker is an exploration of three generations of women in the same family, their progress from Poland to Scotland to England, and how war affects both those involved and their future descendants. It’s about identity, family and traumatic experiences, with Walker playing her mother and grandmother as well as herself. She switches easily between personas and makes the whole thing memorable and thought-provoking.
Performed at the Streatham Hill Theatre as part of the ‘Women and War’ season, it’s well worth seeing.
Streatham Hill Theatre have put on an unusual kind of show for Easter – a panto. Based on Prokovief’s Peter and The Wolf, the show has many elements of Russian folklore, including a wood demon, a firebird, an ice queen, Cossacks and Bolsheviks, and even a mad monk called Disputin. Not forgetting a pre-interval dance to Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’.
The show, which followed Peter Pyotrovich’s search for the wolf supposedly terrifying the village, was amusing if a tad too long. It felt strange to be seeing a pantomime in the springtime, but the setting – the theatre at the British Home in Streatham – was a good one.
My first encounter with Streatham Theatre Company occurred when I attended a performance of their Hallowe’en production The Devil Rides Back. Inspired by local supernatural author Dennis Wheatley, whose most famous book The Devil Rides Out was published in 1934, it is a promenade piece taking audiences on a journey around the Beacon Bingo Club, formerly Streatham Hill Theatre.
The theatre has a rich history and the Company have made the most of this in creating their tour. We were divided into groups and taken around the back alleys and dark corners of the theatre, trying to discover what really happened when an actress was killed and her body disappeared (inspired by a real event). Along the way, we witnessed scenes featuring different characters, from the theatre’s shady manager and a lonely projectionist to the actress’s daughter, a psychic and a bunch of not-particularly-competent devil worshippers. Our guide also told us about the history of the building and the theatre, which enjoyed great success in its early years with actors such as John Gielgud treading the boards, and took us to the hidden areas of the building, including its old foundations (the basement of the house that occupied the site before the theatre was built) and the space below the stage, where the trapdoors, lifts and water pit can still be seen.
The tour alone would have been worth the journey: it was fascinating to see this beautiful building, and such a shame that the large and magnificent auditorium has been turned into a bingo club. Hwever, the murder mystery added an extra dimension to the story and made for a hugely entertaining evening. Streatham Theatre Company might be amateurs, but their complex production punches above its weight.