Theatre review: These Are Your Lives at the Yard Theatre

Hackney Yard Theatre Jacks Johns and Lilian Schiffer

Hackney Yard Theatre Jacks Johns and Lilian Schiffer - Credit: Archant

Are you sitting comfortably? May the chat show begin. This darkly comic play starts simply, quietly, the audience very much part of the scene.

The exploration of celebrity at the centre of this verbatim drama is deconstructed and reconstructed, as are the emotions of those who watch it.

The scene begins with an expectant audience and a round of applause as the star (Jack Johns) and the interviewer (Brian Gillespie) come to sit on two chairs. The body language of the protagonists helps decipher which is which, because you already know, right?

Identity, or lack thereof, is a key theme in this 70 minute play which uses teh real life utterances of Hollywood heavyweight Tom Cruise.

When the interviewer loses control, the stage manager, (Ottillie Parfitt), comes to the rescue and ends up telling him what she has in common with him, attaching her identity to his. An ex girlfriend (Lilian Schiffer) is introduced, the chat show resumes.

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There is strong emphasis on repetition of sound and movement. A choir, high in the eaves, tease the actors, mimicking their movements, cajoling them.

Lighting is used to tremendous effect. Dimmed as the star paces with anxiety, once the spotlight is back on him, he re-engages the persona the public recognises.

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The set changes half way to reveal the star’s home and the banal ordinariness of what occurs there day in, day out.

Iconic film images are played on white screens, at one point there is visually so much happening, it’s hard to know where to look. There are moments when it’s not clear what’s going on at all, but a cut in the action, or the mega watt smile, and the audience is brought back to a sense of security.

Written and directed by Alexander Rennie and choreographed by Tara D’Arquian, it is an unnerving play that raises the question of how much we need celebrities by which to measure our own lives. Can anyone be one? Has celebrity become so prolific we cannot live without it? We may never know who they are, but who are we? Well worth experiencing.

Rating: Four stars

Until October 4.

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