Tomorrow, White Bear Theatre - Review

Produced and directed by Leah Cooper and Rebecca Hewitt of Whistlestop Theatre, Tomorrow is a play that has manages to subvert the ‘kitchen sink’ milieu and offers a multi-layered commentary on 21st Century London. Set in a tower block in the Elephant & Castle, SE1 serves as an area that’s close and yet so far away from the affluence and influence of Westminster.

I don’t always comment on stage sets (partly because a lot of plays staged in fringe theatres keep props and décor to a minimum) but Whistlestop should be congratulated on the set design for this production. With the simple, but effective use of floor tiles, wallpaper and a well-thought-out selection of household items, it really did feel like we were sitting in someone’s living room, especially as the White Bear Theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue. In addition, the footage on the television before the play began (which showed extreme weather intercut with interviews with people) showed a lot of imagination and attention to detail. When the play opened to the strains of Ike and Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits, I thought “If the set and this song is anything to go by, I’m in for a cracking evening!”

But I digress.

On the eve of ‘utopia’ coming to the UK next year, Clive (Nate Jones) observes this momentous event by holding a party at his flat (with finger buffet food compliments of Lidl)! Norah (Ava Charles), one of his old school friends turns up, along with her mother Barbie (Juliet Knight) and Norah’s volatile boyfriend Wayne (Ben Tiramini). When his only guests temporarily leave to see what’s happening with the crowds outside, Clive is visited by the mysterious Billie (Niall McNamee) who may have indirectly been responsible for Clive’s agoraphobia. Upon the return of his initial party guests, Wayne recognises Billie, leading to a heated exchange…

With its themes of waiting for invited guests (who don’t show) along with the arrival of the uninvited, Tomorrow echoes the Absurdist nature of Pinter’s The Birthday Party and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. How and why there’s an expected utopian paradigm shift is never fully explained. This leaves it open to any number of interpretations, including the possibility that the recent tempestuous weather points to an apocalyptic event that will irrevocably change life for everyone.

In some ways it’s all immaterial. What’s of importance in the play is how ‘the promise of a better future’ affects the characters’ expectation for life, and whether it’s possible to reach ‘utopia’ without a fundamental change in one’s own outlook and behaviour. Considering the circumstances, the characters are generally upbeat, as if they knew without articulating that this wasn’t the end of all things, period, but the beginning of a new epoch.

For all of its big ideas that hedge for attention, Tomorrow is a play about relationships and the way people treat each other – especially in relation to mental health. Wayne is perturbed by Clive’s insistence that he had once been in space, yet it never occurs to him to wonder why Clive would ever think this. During one frank exchange between Billie and Clive, they ‘confess’ to each having ‘super powers’ – empathy and knowing what other people are thinking. In a more nurturing environment, their admissions wouldn’t be seen as abnormal but the natural outcome of being emotionally intelligent. Their self-awareness, however, doesn’t preclude them from their anxieties.

Tomorrow is one of Sam Evans’ first forays into playwriting and shows early promise as a playwright who has taken 'the road less travelled by’. Similarly, after making a name with raucous, immersive interpretation of established texts, Tomorrow marks Whistlestop Theatre’s coming-of-age with an imaginative take on pertinent new writing. Their synergy could pave the way for many fruitful collaborations in the future.



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