Lessons in Revolution at Hope Theatre
Lessons in Revolution is staged at Hope Theatre – a fitting location for the purposes of this production. Samuel Rees and Gabriele Uboldi take viewers into a gripping recount of the London School of Economics sit-in protest that took place in 1968, looking at some of the key players that catalysed the movement, and how it connects different pieces of history – from Rhodesia to the Vietnam War, all the way to the Gay Liberation Front. All of these events are connected simply by the red string of LSE. Like a free-spirited classroom – sitting cross-legged on the floor, a projector at the centre, and audience participation encouraged – the “lesson” aesthetic braces people for a night full of lectures and historical details.
Rees and Uboldi preface the performance with a series of disclaimers: one to do with the extent of their research, and the other claiming they aren’t “actors”. The second point is key to understanding how they have chosen to deliver their research to the audience. Instead of anything extravagant and theatrical, the two exude charisma and charm and use that to capture interest and hold attention. Yes, some of the facts and figures delivered, the geographical data presented and the oscillating timeline can be hard to follow. But the two cut through all of the dry and heavy pieces of information with jokes, anecdotes and audience involvement. They aren’t actors, sure – but their passion for the subject matter at hand is infectious.
Videos and images are projected onto the walls of the small venue – archival footage of the protest and home videos the two have volunteered for the performance – to help emphasise specific points and highlight significant quotes. Rudy Percival’s sound design is simple but extremely effective in conveying the kind of tone each piece of history requires, from the dramatic events of the war to the sentimentality of Rees and Uboldi’s friendship. Lighting, or lack thereof, creates a suffocating feeling, with the blackouts the protestors faced as they sat in the old theatre, and the prospect of fire – a recurring theme in which Uboldi ponders on his current living situation and the possibility of being trapped in his room, which has no other access besides the kitchen.
What may seem like a disjointed web teaches the very simple lesson of change, stagnation and revolution. While Rees and Uboldi make clear that they can’t be like a “Netflix documentary” that presents a massive shift in the circumstances because some people got together, they do remind the audience that change is possible. Maybe it didn’t happen for this one specific event, but there are many others that have come before and after that have sparked something. The ending is especially visceral in showing this as two audience members read out letters Rees and Uboldi have written to each other. It’s touching and heartfelt, and their friendship shows through significantly. But most importantly, the exchange is full of hope, perfectly befitting the chosen venue.
Images: Jack Sain
Lessons in Revolution is at Hope Theatre from 26th September until 7th October 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.