Olympilads at Theatre N16
In the summer of 2012, the United Kingdom was gripped by a fever like no other. For the first time since 1948, London was hosting the greatest sporting event on the planet – The Olympic Games. It was exceptionally easy to get sucked into the hype that followed the competition, particularly in London, but amidst the excitement, life demanded continuity. People still had to go to work, transport needed to be on time and bills needed to be paid. Andrew Maddock’s Olympilads highlights these social issues, suggesting how the frenzy around the 2012 games affected the everyday lives of those around them, and how severe the interference could be to those of a weaker mind.
In short, Olympilads is centred around the story of one family, three half-siblings to be precise, who all struggle coming to terms with their family history and transition into adulthood. Simeon (Rhys Yates) is living in the shadow of his father, looking after his younger brother Darren (Nebiu Samuel) whilst maintaining his job as a department manager at Addison Lee. The narrative is made more complex by Darren’s obsession with running and fixation on his self-belief that he is competing in the Olympic Games against the likes of Usain Bolt. Throw in a half-sister who has been estranged from the family and there is a concoction for an uneasy ride. In a story that causes a clash of opinions and tests family loyalties, Simeon finds himself in the middle of an emotional tug of war, his brother Darren on one side, sister Abigail (Michelle Barwood) on the other.
In what appears to be a condensed version of the play, director Niall Phillips has allowed creative juices to flow, and taken full advantage of the venue (Theatre N16), making the set, music and lighting all work to the favour of the production. The piece is in the round, and the cast make no hesitation in breaking the fourth wall from the off. Theatre company Lonesome Schoolboy have created a set that involves the audience whilst also subconsciously telling them where they can and cannot sit. Cushions are splayed across the floor, all props are present onstage throughout, and a long raised platform cuts across the room. The performers move freely between the spectators, directing certain lines at individuals, and this forms a strong engagement between the three cast members and their onlookers.
Although not specifically clarified in the play, Darren’s mental stability is questioned as the story progresses, and Samuel does a brilliant job in personifying his character’s condition throughout, with phrase repetition symbolising the single-track thoughts in his mind. Yates is electrifying as Simeon, the brother who is torn between uniting his family and breaking it apart further, and Michelle Blackwood sparks the tensions in the air between the siblings. The onstage chemistry between the cast makes Olympilads an entertaining experience and an engaging picture of family tensions; it is just a shame that this production is not the full edition, since answers to a few questions and narrative are missing.
Photo: Kathy Trevelyan
Olympilads is at Theatre N16 from 8th until 26th of August 2017. For further information or to book visit here.