Electric, Rio Cinema, review: ‘Alive with the ghosts of an illustrious history’

Electric at the Rio

Electric at the Rio - Credit: Archant

A stroll through the Dalston Rio proves an electric success, says Greg Wetherall.

Being guided through the dingy rooms and corridors in the basement of Dalston’s iconic art deco Rio cinema in Dalston is a new experience.

Hitherto unused, the cramped space, residing in the building’s underbelly, now makes its performance venue debut through the presentation of Andrew Day’s ambitious site-specific work, Electric.

On offer is a multi-strand narrative that dips in and out of different eras. These range from the 1920s to the present day – with stop-offs at WWII as a bomb shelter and the 1970s too – in a bid to celebrate the building’s hundred-year existence. With such a broad reach, compelling topics such as faith, striptease, love and feminism all rear their heads. And cinema too, of course.

In terms of the latter, William (James Hogarth) is the piece’s cinephile. Utilising spools of film and a trusty old projector, he provides spirited Faith (Henrietta Imoreh) and transvestite Truman (Kenan Sweeney-Tisson) with a crash course in movie history. His passionate outpourings sprinkle a misty-eyed dash of romance for the strong female film stars of yesteryear. Meanwhile, Faith is trying to seek an escape from a murky past. She finds solace in William’s education, but whether she can escape the past or not is another matter entirely.

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In truth, 75 minutes is too short to adequately traverse and resolve all of the divergent plot lines, and this is where Electric is a victim of its own mighty grasp. But these are mild quibbles when there is as much exuberance and ingenuity as that on display here. Whilst the space itself might be unspectacular, it is alive with the ghosts of an illustrious history. A charismatic cast from Big House, a theatre project working with young people who have been through the care system, and a rich set of narratives ensures that, on balance, this promenade piece of theatre is not only Electric by name, but by nature too.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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