Faster than Bolt and discussing dystopia

Yesterday I was back at Live Theatre’s Elevator Festival, to see a work-in-progress, Faster Than Bolt. I debated whether to go or not – all the mixed messages from the media on what to do to avoid Corona Virus have me spinning – but figured as Live is a compact space attracting well below the current guidelines (which at the time of writing is 500 – by the time you read it, might be 5) I figured it was safe to go as long as I washed my hands and didn’t touch anyone.

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Somewhat ironically, I had also arranged to meet dystopian fiction author Amy Lord for coffee at the Baltic beforehand. Amy is the author of The Disappeared, a book about a future where reading the wrong books can have dire consequences, who I met when we did the ALCS  talk in November. It was great to catch up, though felt slightly weird to be sitting in the middle of a pandemic talking about dystopian fiction!

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I was glad to see both Amy and Faster than Bolt, though. Written by Juliana Mensah, directed by Rosa Stourac McCreery and with dramaturgy by Keisha Thompson, this one-woman show (starring Anna Ajobo) is set during the 2012 Olympics and focuses on the story of asylum seeker Faizah.

It was a work in progress, so not the finished project, but it certainly looked promising. Ajobo is a performer of charm and talent, and the script – though still in need of a polish – was sharp and empathetic. It’s strongest parts were focused on Faizah – the bit about people feeling entitled to hear the worst traumas of refugees and asylum seekers’ stories to see if they ‘deserved’ safety and citizenship was particularly powerful, and there was plenty of humour, though I felt the local characters were much more thinly drawn and need more fleshing out to be more than just stereotypes.

The production also uses aerial work, and this looks like in the final production it might be really striking. They need perhaps to work on what the aerial rings are doing when not in use – they were too often just left spinning, which pulled focus from Ajobo (and didn’t help my rolling migraine!) but there was definitely enough on display to imply that the finished version of the show could well be something special. There was also a Q&A afterwards, where people could give feedback – though I skipped this as I was still a bit knackered and just wanted to get home!

I’m hoping to see more of Elevator this coming week (government guidelines allowing) but so far it’s proven to be a really strong line up of shows – all at very affordable prices, so worth checking out, if you feel comfortable being in public spaces right now.

 

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