“Sit down, have a sausage roll”
What if the sun didn’t come out tomorrow? In Samuel Evans’ dystopian miniature, that’s a distinct possibility as a series of global apocalyptic happenings – as rather neatly surmised in a news broadcast that is playing as we enter the theatre – have led to tomorrow being declared as the end of the world and the beginning of, well, something new. Or so the people gathered in Clive’s front room on the 15th floor of an Elephant and Castle tower block hope.
Whistlestop Theatre’s production of Tomorrow at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington hinges on two key aspects here and delivers strongly on both – a thought-provoking approach to the genre that forces a fresh appraisal, and the kind of hyper-localism that money just can’t buy. There’s something hugely appropriate about being able to see where a play is set (more or less) from the front door of the venue, especially when writing and direction combine as effectively and sensitively as they do here.
Put this play on in the Almeida and there’d be titters when Clive announces the buffet for the party has come from Lidl, but that would be to ignore the glint of pride in his eye that he’s got catering in. Likewise, the dream of a magical garden is all the more powerful if all you’ve known is high-rise council estates. The attention to detail in the set, in the characterisations, in the language, all hits the spot perfectly to pay real tribute to the area.
And the play itself unwinds in a most fascinating manner as we discover Clive’s agoraphobia means he hasn’t left the flat in three years – the tolerance of his three guests ranging from pained sympathy to barely disguised antipathy – and the lure of a sausage roll and a shandy has tempted down the mysterious Billie from the 17th floor, a young man fighting his own demons. Natey Jones and Niall McNamee each convince powerfully of the huge frustrations but paralysing fear that accompanies their mental health problems and in the show’s most potent moment, dream of what relief tomorrow could bring (and remind us what would have been theirs in a friendlier world).
And that is where Tomorrow clears away the cobwebs – a compelling examination of the ways in which we, and society in general, treat those with perceived mental health issues, which points the finger at everyone expecting that the world will always change for the better. So whether the sun comes out or not, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be hearing from writer Samuel Evans again in the future and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tomorrow reappear soon as well, after all it’s only a day away.