Emerging into the upstairs room of the Arts Theatre London, my 22-year old self was confronted by a familiar sight – a motley collection of chairs, a solitary speaker system, an underwhelming platter of crisps, and an assembled table of various alcoholic beverages. It was a typical twenty-something party setting – the audience stood around awkwardly, unsure of where to sit or how to react. The authenticity was bewildering.
In spite of this familiarity, what Tomorrow achieved so marvellously was taking this authenticity and slowly warping it into a fantastical and intensely powerful narrative. 5 characters are assembled in a single flat as they await a new dawn, the titular ‘tomorrow’, which is reported to bring with it a fresh start and opportunity – a ‘utopia’. The power of this ‘utopia’ lies in its ambiguity – we never know specifically how it will manifest itself or what impact it will have on the characters themselves (apart from the fact that, apparently, David Cameron has suddenly passed away) – all we know is that nothing will be the same again. It is a compelling narrative and thematic choice; one that bristles with energy and keeps the performance compelling for its 70 minute runtime.
This concept of a ‘utopia’ and a ‘new start’ seemed all the more important when grounded in a London setting of Elephant and Castle – an area constantly promised with a fresh start and renovation. If the play was intended to act as a commentary on the redevelopment programme and the ensuing housing crisis of the capital, it worked magnificently – these five characters were wondering how they might survive in this new utopia or if, judging by their personality, whether or not they’d even exist come ‘tomorrow’. This subtext was a fantastic addition to the play, layering every action with symbolism and significance.
A few standout actors deserve special mention for the performances. Niall McNamee’s Billy and Aaron Gordon’s Clive provided a brilliantly comedic and empathetic opening scene that really laid the groundwork for the increasingly surreal episode that followed, and in a way the show pivoted around their relationships with ‘tomorrow’. At the same time, credit must go to director Rebecca Hewett for creating a fluidity of movement and understated naturalism that made Tomorrow so pertinent and its characters so accessible. The choice of a very natural and immersive set felt equally appropriate – when characters hammered on the room’s doors we too felt we were being intruded upon by unseen forces.
There were a few quibbles – the ending felt somewhat hurried (though the ambiguity it created was entirely earned and left me yearning for more) and the character of Lisa and her relationship with her absent son felt criminally underwritten, but as it stood Tomorrow was a fantastic piece to find itself housed in the centre of London. It was fundamentally a textured canvas onto which audience members (myself included) could lace meaning and intricacy, but it pulled off something tightly wrought and completely absorbing. If you are in central London and looking for something to see, Tomorrow would be a safe bet on a marvellous hour of theatre.
Performances: March 7th – 12th at 7.30pm
Tickets: £15 / £12 Equity, OAP, jobseekers and student concessions