I and the Village at Theatre503
What happens to a rebellious teenager in small-town America where townsfolk attend church religiously and everything and everyone must fit neatly into indefectible boxes? Written by Silva Sermerciyan, an American playwright permanently settled in the UK, I and the Village tells the story of Aimee Stright, a misunderstood teenager who’s just trying to make sense of the world she lives in.
“So maybe I just want to opt out you know? Maybe I don’t want to be part of the master plan. The big assembly line in the sky,” she says. But her catechisation of the community around her leads to her isolation and, ultimately, her destruction.
A blackened theatre and a loud bang start the performance. Dramatic and startling, it sets the tone for the beautiful piece that unfolds. The lights flare and the stage is illuminated in its starkness; a blank canvas for Aimee’s graffiti art. A chorus arrives dressed in white, coordinating with the set, while colours radiate from Aimee, her clothes and her art alluding to her uniqueness amid the uniform of those around her.
I and the Village depicts all that is wrong with American civilisation: the desire for observed perfection, for success, for worship, and the American Dream against a backdrop of hypocricy, self-preservation and guns.
Under director Robert Shaw Cameron’s vision and Emily Hubert’s production, the cast play multiple roles in an array of scenes and with minimal props. Painted cubes make up a bed, a wall and a boat. Actors create the rest: the atmosphere of a boat at sea on a darkened night; rebellious teenagers sneaking around town.
Chloe Harris is perfectly cast as teenager Aimee, who embodies her vulnerability, confusion and rebellion with pin-point accurateness, complemented by Stephanie Schonfield’s emotive performance as her frustrated, highly successful but slightly out-of-touch mother. The supporting cast slip in and out of multiple characters as easily as one slips on a new outfit. David Michaels stands out as Aimee’s father and Randy, her mother’s new partner, Aimee’s mentor and eventually lecherous lover. The intimacy of these roles played by the same person brings to mind how boundaries can be blurred by a troubled teenage girl.
The real star of the show is Semerciyan, whose writing is of such quality that she is able to authentically bring a small American community to the stage above a pub on the wet streets of Clampham Junction.