House Of Commons presented by Split Note Theatre
What is it?
House of Commons is a play about isolation, by Split Note Theatre, playing at the White Bear in Kennington.
What is it all about?
House of Commons is about a prison. Well, a prison, but also a mental asylum at the same time. It could even be considered a torture chamber of sorts. Whichever way you look at it, it’s an enclosed world- the ‘inside’, as opposed to the ‘outside’.
The play tackles the theme of hierarchy with incredibly poignancy. The presence of the announcements from a mysterious authority figure, lets you know that the characters are being constantly monitored and endlessly punished. They also can’t leave. It’s like purgatory, the limbo before God’s judgement.
How did it make me feel?
I was struck by how very well-staged the direction by Luke Culloty (who also plays the wordless Andre) is. It is a minimal set that still conveys the sense of being institutionalised, even the costumes, a simple white t-shirt and grey tracksuit bottoms add to this uniformity. Piercingly green lighting lets the audience know not to get comfortable.
Equally strong is the sense of power dynamics between the characters. Each of them has had a difficult past, which the audience get a glimpse into whilst also being free to fill in the gaps. Isolation and marginalisation are the principal themes, the characters are cruel like Jude’s (Jay Coward) mockery of wheelchair user Peta (Nomi Bailey). Yet, they are also the marginalised.
As Jude, Coward commands the stage, giving us a rounded and believable character and telling a back story that incorporates homophobia and racism. You can see the frustration on his face. At other points, from the cast some of the acting can seem stilted and forced, even joking. This is a shame because of how incredibly deep the characters histories are, and how disturbingly unhinged they are.
Lana (Sarah Collins Walters) is an important character because she fails to process her past. Guilt-ridden, but still very much lovestruck. Andre (Luke Culloty) is one of the most interesting parts of the story, a silent, but expressive representation of hurt and trauma.
By the end the line is blurred between victim and perpetrator. It’s for the audience to work out where we stand on the matter, and indeed, in relation to it.
The writing by Luke Culloty is incredible, and it is a fantastic hour of theatre, with so much potential. I highly recommend this and look forward to seeing future work from Split Note Theatre.
House of Commons is playing at The White Bear Theatre until the 22nd February 2020.
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