Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Confessions of a City - Sheffield Crucible Theatre

Confessions of a City
Writer: Richard Hurford
Director: Ruth Carney
Reviewer: Sarah Lyth

How well do you know the city you live in? How do you know?

I came to Sheffield a decade a ago not knowing that I would fall in love. Yes, I’ve had personal experiences of heart ache and heart break, but it was Richard Hurford’s Confessions of a City, performed in the new look Crucible Theatre, that made me recognise exactly what it is that makes Sheffield irresistible to those born here, and to newcomers like me. Sheffield is both a normal city and an extraordinary one that glitters with a dark underbelly.

Literally travelling around the theatre, able to glimpse normally unseen parts such as the Green Room that are usually out of bounds, the audience were invited to participate in the revelations made by each of the principal characters of the piece. Coming from a range of experiences within Sheffield, the people shocked, repulsed, amused and moved their audience in turn. The four included a homeless young man, an elderly resident who hailed from Crookes, a Burmese immigrant and a Polish woman trusting in the power of love. The close proximity to the actors, and the placing of the audience actually within the scenes themselves, made for an intimate and profoundly challenging experience. I heard fellow audience members discussing their relation to the homeless and to the immigrants on our streets in a new light as I sat on the bus home.

Set within the context of a tram journey around the city, we were welcomed through the new automatic doors of the Crucible by our guides. There were never any clues as to what to expect, the actors simply welcomed the audience as new members of the scene and continued on with the stories, whether it was into a party disco atmosphere or into an eerie forbidden room that wouldn’t have been out of place in a James Bond movie.

The Company portrayed a rich and diverse city, impregnated with magic, mystery and power. At times frighteningly dark and disturbing, at times beautifully heart warming and nostalgic, Confessions of a City challenged the audience to view their personal part in the daily life of the city of Sheffield. We are all intertwined and we all contribute to its essence, no matter how or who we are. Ciaran Dowd as Leonardo brutally forced us to engage with the devestation of addiction and shot it through with a colourful ray of hope. Sally Evans encouraged us to recognise that the human heart can overcome all with its trust in the power of love. Fiz Marcus’ Rita led us into a rediscovery of the power of memory within each of us, and the impact this has on our daily lives. As the immigrant Quack, Alex Tilouche guided his audience into a recognition of the blessings many of us have in having the simple gift of freedom to live without fear simply because we were born UK residents.

As the journey ended and the tram tannoy guided the audience along to one last stop, I found myself walking along towards the famous Crucible stage. We had an actor’s eye view underneath the twinkling lights of the iconic stage out towards the seats in the round. We celebrated the characters of the confessions we had experienced and they in turn celebrated the rich diversity of people in the Steel City with applause.

A truly magical experience, in a truly magical theatre, in a tuly magnificent city. Bravo Sheffield!

Confessions of a City runs at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield until Sunday 29th November 2009.

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