On The Line - Theatre Review

A friendly welcome is in store for all attending ‘On The Line’, I was greeted by Babs who had stepped straight out of the 80s to hand me a bingo card on arrival. Robin Linde Productions manage to create a fabulous atmosphere in this Site Specific production; we’re told at the start it’s chilled out, no rules and we can visit the bar when we choose.

Judith Amsenga and Charlotte Higgins are fabulous as Babs and Jackie, hilariously witty and entertaining throughout, it’s hard to tell if it’s improvised or skilfully scripted to seem improvised, either way, there’s a freshness to their performance which is hugely engaging for the duration. They're 'putting on an evening' to collect for the hungry families in their community at the height of the miners strike.

The piece draws a simple, but undeniably strong comparison between Britain under Thatcher, and Cameron’s Britain. A blend of music (composed and played live on accordion by Kevin Potton), merges with defined scenes, a short film and audience participation.

The company request a donation for a local food bank alongside the £10 ticket price (they’ve teamed up with Hammersmith and Fulham Foodbank for the production) - the donations brought are organised and sorted on stage, becoming part of the piece; in essence it feels as though they’ve created a time travel tunnel linking the struggle then, to the struggle now, and all in all, despite the humour they create, the outlook is bleak.

The overall message comes through the clarity with which they demonstrate how the Tories have clearly failed to learn from previous mistakes, as they lead us directly back to the scenes encountered in 1985 - all too palpable with the current doctor strikes, referenced in the show. It's a tale of community, and the strength in grassroots activism. It’s genuinely a brilliant, well structured piece, and although I fear may preach to the converted in terms of being likely to attract a left wing audience, it was satisfying to sit in a space where the desperate situation of this country was directly addressed. A strong cast, with each character having a moment to stand out and shine it was as moving as it was entertaining. There seem to be no more performances on the cards at the moment, but follow @robinlinde for updates, as if this one does the rounds again, it’s well worth catching.

© Amie Taylor (@AmieAmieTay) 2016

Arcola Theatre Bar

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