I went to the opening night of Utopia on Thursday 31st May, with very little knowledge of what I was letting myself in for. “6 characters in a world of blueprints search for Utopia”. These characters, childlike, inquisitive and full of hope, present a number of human ideas for a perfect world. Each one is played out by one or two of the cast taking on a new role, as the protagonist in a particular social or political situation, then scrapping the idea as, really not a good one. Many different philosophies are described in the musical introduction to give the audience a refresher course in the many social models proposed by the great thinkers, politicians and philosophers over the centuries.
The cast are:
Tobi Bakare (Greenland National Theatre; Crawling In The Dark Almeida Theatre and Gone Too Far, Royal Court Theatre);
Laura Elphinstone (Chalet Lines, The Bush/Live Theatre Top Girls, Chichester Festival Theatre/Trafalgar
Studios; A Month in the Country, Chichester Festival Theatre and the film adaptation of The History Boys);
Rufus Hound making his stage debut, is most well-known for his regular team captainship on Argumental, Celebrity Juice, 8 Out of 10, Cats and Never Mind The Buzzcocks;
Pamela Miles (Darker Shores, Hampstead Theatre; Pygmalion, Theatre Royal Bath/
Old Vic London and Lone Star Mark Three,Salisbury Playhouse);
Sophia Myles also making her stage debut, who is most well-
known for her leading roles in film and TV including Tristan and Isolde and Spooks and David Whitaker one of the founders of Live Theatre, Newcastle, his theatre credits include The Pitmen Painters (Live Theatre/National Theatre/Broadway and West End) plus extensive credits for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Donmar Warehouse.
“Utopia” is a collaboration between Live Theatre and Soho Theatre following the success of “Walk on Part”.
The cast moved seamlessly back and forth between the eight plays, with lighting, projection and use of furniture creating the unique scenarios. I enjoyed the light hearted approach of the characters and the way destructive tendencies of humans were shown, quickly assessed and discarded. Rather like if a 3 year old saw Adolf Hitler, said “Well he’s a very naughty man, that’s not right” and simply put him in a big bin.
The production explores our expectations, how life can disappoint, how a nasty dictator might be swayed by a Facebook page calling out for his arrest, what Purgatory might be like for a bad comedian.
I had a great time at the Live Theatre. The writers of the 8 plays: Michael Chaplin, Dylan Moran, Zoe Cooper, Alistair McDowall, Janice Okoh, Thomas Eccleshare, Simon Stephens and local MP Chi Onwurah, should be very proud of this work. It all fit together so well and presented a picture of a journey through the human condition, and what we really want from our lives.
I would recommend you go to this production. It gets you thinking, gives you a good laugh, the occasional sad moment, a little surrealism, and some unforgettable musical interludes. Excellent theatre.
“Utopia” is running until the 16th of June. Then it will be moving to London. The trailer can be seen here: http://www.live.org.uk/whats-book/utopia and tickets are from £10-18.
I’ve said this before but Live Theatre is one of my favourite places to see drama, and comedy. Its size makes every seat a good seat, has a lovely bar and lounge area, all you need for a good night out. Cabaret seating is available near the stage. Real ale fans will enjoy the range of beers including “Writer’s Block” specially brewed by Wylam Brewery for Live Theatre. I experienced Doddington’s Scotch Bonnet Chilli ice cream on the night, which was a revelation!
All pictures taken from the Live Theatre website.