Following the exclusive interview with the playwright herself, TNT headed down to see the long-awaited production of ‘The Community Centre’.
Written by Nicola Gardner, directed by John Klark, and produced by Darren Adams, ‘The Community Centre’ effectively achieved what it set out to do; to demonstrate the hilarity of our everyday lives and celebrate our city’s multiculturalism.
Located in the Anthony Burgess Foundation Building on Cambridge Street, the venue mirrored the warm and welcoming atmosphere the play focused on. Like a community centre itself, the space was humble and unpretentious.
Positioned amidst the actors during their performances, the audience was fully amerced within the play. With many actors speaking to audience members directly – in character of course – it only added to the sense of honest realism and warmth found in a real-life community centre.
Despite the welcoming, almost familial atmosphere created by both the actors and location, the stage layout – although original – may have had the adverse effect of creating the sense of unity that was previously being achieved.
At one end of the stage sat four elderly characters, who, with their anecdotes, produced an abundance of laughs amongst the audience. At the other end of the stage, and at the other end of the audience, sat two community farm workers on a long tea break.
Whilst the audience integration with the stage layout was welcoming, as a result of this, it meant that the two groups of actors were isolated in their scenes and barely interacted with one another. Although not a pivotal criticism, it may have added to the play’s core belief of a community centre as an inviting melting pot of different cultures had this not been the case.
The comedic aspects of the play were indeed executed well. The humour was, in parts, tongue in cheek – especially between the two farm workers, Anisha and Bev. Their scenes focussed on dating faux-pas, with the two characters often reminiscing on their terrible – yet extremely entertaining – experiences.
The script was incredibly life-like and never sounded robotic or rehearsed. Conversation between characters flowed well and was demonstrative of the conversations we ourselves have everyday.
Significant plot development and action may have been absent within the play – but due to the nature of a real-life community centre, it may have felt out of place had it been present. Instead, ‘The Community Centre’ revelled in its honesty, heart and energy.
The final scene of the play was by far a favourite and tied the audience with the play’s inviting atmosphere. A group rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ even had the audience swaying and singing along in what felt like a truly inspiring moment of family, love and acceptance.
TNT Arts & Culture Alexia Hendrickson