In Transit by Artichoke Theatre

This was my first visit to the Blue Elephant Theatre, it’s a cosy space in the heart of Camberwell, about a ten minute walk from Oval Station. A black box theatre, I sat awaiting the show, two musicians on strings providing the backdrop to my anticipation. A single black coat sat crumpled on the stage. I thought to myself ‘ A-ha - a nice simple show', two live musicians, one performer, one prop, no mess. But Florence Leon’s performance is far from simple.

She has you captivated from the moment she sets foot on stage, with inviting eyes that you can’t help but fall in to. She is an exquisite performer (trained at La Mancha in Chile), and moves effortlessly from role to role, playing 27 different characters throughout the 1h15 piece. She hurtles from manic to serene to frantic and lost, and I found myself, quite literally on the edge of my seat as I leaned in to watch her. She tells the story of Ella, a woman who has found herself in what seems to be a hospital waiting room, unable to complete the registration forms due to her recent loss of memory. As the story plays out we capture moments from her past, many of them stereotypical moments from many lives, and I certainly found myself recalling similar situations from my own history - I loved that it invited us to do that. It could be confusing trying to pursue the inner thoughts of someone suffering memory loss, but somehow it isn’t. There are unclear moments, to me these felt very much all part of Ella’s journey. Leon warps time and space throughout the piece. In one section she journeys from first meeting of a partner to the birth of her first child at breakneck (but graspable) speed – key images from that sequence have stayed indelibly etched in my memory.

Leon’s ability to jump seamlessly from character to character is to be admired, we see the hospital waiting room constructed before our very eyes as she comedically plays a whole host of archetypal characters who interact with Ella as she attempts to recover her past. It’s a real craft, and not something you see very often in a performer, her vocal, facial and physical elements are all as equally strong as each other, and fascinating to watch.

The live music, performed by Rhys Lovell and William Calderbank is always fitting, and sits comfortably within the piece, I particularly enjoyed the underscore through her journey of meeting her partner.

The ending is hard hitting, and I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s moving and gives you that nudge – that reminder that life is short and unpredictable. I left awe-filled, and a saddened by Ella’s story, but there’s still an element of joy to the show, despite it’s serious undertones and you can’t ignore that. It’s one of those kick-in-the-guts shows, that leaves you vowing to not waste any more time worrying about the trivial things in life, and really carries that message home.

Devised and Performed by: Florence Leon
Co-directed by: Graham Shackell and Florence Leon
Live Original Music and Double Bass by: Rhys Lovell
Production and PR by: Artichoke Artgroup Solange Leon
Cello by: Wiliam Calderbank
Lighting design by: James Morris

On at The Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell until 10th October 2014 (Thurs-Sat)
Book tickets on: 020 7701 0100

Blue Elephant Theatre: @BETCamberwell
Artichoke Artgroup: @artichokeart

Author's review: 
4