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This Time Tomorrow, Varndean School, Brighton, May 27
It was a blistering hot Sunday afternoon and Varndean school shimmered in the heat. In the playground were four vehicles – the set. An audience of two were tucked into the back seat of each car and waited, windows obscured by black paper studded with pinpricks of light, enough air swirling around from the open boots to keep things cool.
Thud. The car’s front doors opened, a couple of actors took their places in the driver and passenger seats, and the show began. Running concurrently, each performance lasted for around 15 minutes, the audience shifting from one car to the next to sit, to wait, to observe – an immediately intriguing device.
The scenarios were instantly recognisable: a mother confronts her daughter about her sexuality; Batman and Robin “split up”; two old friends meet up after ten years; a mother struggles to curb her teenager daughter’s errant behaviour. Clearly played, at their best, the performances were powerful and affecting, and the stories felt very human and authentic, with genuinely surprising twists and turns.
But it was the innovation of the staging that made this a winner. Immersed in the drama, the audience were sucked into the stories a bit like children on a car journey overhearing their parents saying something they shouldn’t – a dynamic with huge emotional impact.