Civil Unrest – A Review

Last night I went to see the Civil Unrest show that my photographs have been included in. The show is in a series of tunnels under London Bridge at Debut London and forms part of the Coming Up festival.

Entering the venue two actors stand costumed, quite convincingly, as riot police guarding the gallery. After a few minutes to buy drinks and a programme the audience is invited through to the next tunnel with the two police checking the stamps on people’s hands that they were given in exchange for their tickets on the door.

The ‘gallery’ is a smoke filled tunnel with photographs of protests, some are simply hung by cable ties to metal fencing whilst others have been collaged with newspapers. The room is lit by bare bulbs strung across the room and a bright red stage light in the corner that backlights some of the photographs.

Soon the police come and bark at people to move on to the next section, which includes artwork by Peter Kennard and video by Fil Kaler, the audience is contained in a small area surrounded by more metal fencing and riot police. Small groups of people are then allowed through by the police to a kitchen hatch and handed a cardboard tray of food and pass onto a canteen. The canteen is made up of two long rows of tables and benches, surrounded by scaffolding that makes walkways above and patrolled by riot police as people eat below.

The food initially looked unappealing in it’s compartmentalised cardboard tray; a bread roll, beetroot, roast vegetables, a slab of meat on a thick grey sauce and a large blob of bright yellow mustard. But after trying some with the provided plastic spoon you find that the bread roll is soft and fresh, the vegetables are delicious, the meat has been cooked slowly and crumbles away and the sauce is a creamy mushroom one. Drinks are brought round by a man wearing a navy jumpsuit, pushing a trolley with enamel mugs containing a small serving of Courvoisier punch.

After people had finished eating two of the tables were removed from the middle of the canteen to form the centrer stage for Ben Ellis’ play Unrestless. The play is about three siblings different approaches to the student protest outside Milbank last year.

The play utilised the space in the tunnel quite well, with scenes taking place on the walkways over the audience and others with the actors walking over the tables where people had been eating and were still sitting. I don’t often go to the theatre but there were a few scenes I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief, but that’s probably more because I covered the events depicted rather than any fault with the acting.

Unfortunately the show has already sold out for the rest of it’s run, but there will be a private view at 4pm today, just drop me note via email or in the comments and I’ll get you on the guest list.

You can see more photos from the show in my archive.