STAN’S Café is a Birmingham based Theatre Company dedicated to exploratory ways of staging and presenting theatre.
Directed by James Yarker, itstheir latest production ‘The Capital’, proved to be a very unique, thought-provoking and often moving experience.
The setting is stark and comprises a simple stage within a stage – there are two prosceniums – the first a vast black box inside which is the smaller second box which is white. Inside this, reside two parallel moving walkways – these travel in opposite direction. Upon these, the entire production is played.
To bring the audience gently into the action, rows of grey plastic chairs travel monotonously but strangely mesmerisingly on the walkways, then after what seems an eternity something strange occurs – one chair is not facing fully forward.
Order is restored for a while until the uniformity slowly breaks into randomness – some chairs are even upturned. Life is of course like those chairs on the conveyor belts, periods of conformity broken up by the reality of change.
Humans sliding their way through life replace the chairs – we witness a myriad of everyday stories, cleverly interwoven and always moving.
It is an easy watch and quite compelling, there is enough continuity of plot to play with our emotions.
For example, we witness a successful man having an accident which makes him lose his job which in turn makes him depressed and finally, a homeless street person – one story out of dozens coming at you thick and fast and acted without the support of dialogue.
A pounding soundtrack created by Nina West drives it all along relentlessly.
‘The Capital’ could be any capital city anywhere in the world where from birth to death to a lesser or greater degree we are all residing somewhere on those moving walkways of life.
The acting company of Gerard Bell, Luanda Holness, Hema Mangoo, Craig Stephens and Amy Taylor devised ‘The Capital’, apparently originally inspired by conversations with the economics department at Warwick University on ‘Inequality in the Big City’.
A special heads up to the unnamed props team – they performed a Trojan job in continuously feeding the conveyor belts with everything from prams to desks (not forgetting those chairs) for 90 minutes in what must have been a nightmare version of the Generation Game.
It’s fair to say that this production will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I felt richer for the experience. Birmingham is lucky to have Stan’s Café as part of cultural community and I look forward to seeing their next innovation.
Review by Euan Rose