London Calling at The Lockdown Theatre Company Online
If self-isolation has sparked a welcome rebirth for the monologue form, then Lockdown Theatre’s new piece London Calling makes one pray for a vaccine. Rohan Candappa, who guides Lockdown Theatre Company under the unfortunately apt Artistic Misdirector moniker, writes this 17-minute piece as an amalgam of every hack broadsheet column and blue-tick Twitter thread the British population has been subjected to over the last six months. He asks Londoners to cast our minds back “past Teresa May, past Dizzee Rascal, past the Olympics”, and if one’s cultural memory of the city can extend beyond that muddled chronology, he then pre-emptively speaks about the “flattened curve” of Covid to compare The Blitz to lockdown; treading on dangerous waters there. Blitz spirit has become a fully loaded term.
Framing actor Guy Hughes on a white background in what must be his bedroom gives London Calling the feel of a YouTube vlog. Whether or not this is theatre is an asinine question, answered by the ham performance of deep breaths and perfectly enunciated alliterative articles. Henry V, this rousing monologue is not. Just saying the word London over and over again doesn’t get to the heart of what makes the city so alluring. “London is London and Londoners are Londoners”, Hughes says at one point – a floppy-haired, RP-accented Topshop model, whose very presence awkwardly politicises the monologue: bizarrely centred to a clean-cut, BBC-friendly perspective.
When Hughes intones, “you can’t break us”, a generic phrase that can be cut and pasted to every city/nation, one questions the veracity of Candappa’s claims. This overly sincere notion that everyone pulled together during the Covid period is an effort to romanticise a period of massive chaos and division. One that we are very much living through. In the last week London has seen a massive anti-mask/anti-vaccine demonstration, much of the media parroted government PR and insisted that the country return to the office as a way of saving Pret a Manger. So, who is London Calling for? Who will be uplifted, moved or comforted by this balmy idea that there is a more profound purpose to living through this era?
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls”, Hughes says near the end of the piece, before launching into a horrific song that names different places in London and makes fun of death, as the video switches to a split screen showing the performer singing in one frame and playing piano in another. And that’s when one knows what London Calling is for: YouTube!
London Calling is at The Lockdown Theatre Company’s YouTube channel from 7th September. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.