The Big House Theatre Company is an amazing Islington-based charity working with disadvantaged young people to create wonderful theatre. Its latest offering, cruelly cut short by Lockdown 2, offers a highly inventive tragicomic take on a tragicomic year.
It’s rare to go to a press night for a play that’s also its final performance. Then again, it’s rare to go to a press night for any kind of play these days. One would hope that the Big House Theatre Company’s production, The Ballad of Corona V, gets to finish its full run when lockdown ends, whenever lockdown ends; and not just because its even taking place seemed to portend a future reopening of the whole beleaguered theatre sector.
In order to comply with government regulations, performers could only be watched by a six-person audience from the same household or bubble. So, the producers made it a procession: five scenes, each in a separate room, with groups of six moving through at staggered times. As the title suggests, the play, written by young Birmingham playwright David Watson, is topical. But it isn’t just the subject matter which makes it so.
During a time when we are spending even more of our waking hours online, the production makes clever use of a panoply of different media to tell the story of Britain in 2020, thus far. The fragmented narrative features characters from both the upper echelons and lower rungs of society. All of it is set to an original (in every sense of the word) soundtrack—part-performed, part pumped-out—composed by local grime artist Jammz.