Review: Assembly (Donmar Local, livestream)

An hour-long piece, performed live by a cast in various locations, Assembly takes a look at what might be needed in the future.

A citizen’s assembly takes place online with a number of people, but it becomes rather surreal when an attendee arrives late because of problems with the bus.

There are lots of ideas here, and technically, this is a clever piece of work, but the ultimate message is rather incoherent.

Inserts of a newreader on a rather antique television, and a room full of ideas created in cardboard, sit alongside the talking heads who seem very relaxed about the impending end of the world, and the rise of animals, insects and elements who want to make their opinions heard.

By the second half of the piece (after an unscheduled technical stop), the video tech becomes far more accomplished, with cardboard coverings and holes linking the elemental rise to arms and revolution.

There is an element of the comic and the tragic combined as the apocalypse progresses, as a polar bear gives a live interview that is more articulate than any human.

Of course, there are valid points to be made about how humans have had an effect on “bears, bees and rivers”, but they are lost in inconsequential chat (rather like many public meetings intended to make the large decisions which affect our lives).

What would we do in an emergency? Stop to make a cup of tea, before settling into a “make do and mend” kind of panic? Start to turn on each other for survival?

Under Joseph Hancock’s direction the cast of seventeen do very well in this first full Donmar Local production – presenting the stories and voices of Camden and Westminster.

It is written by Nina Segal, and created created in collaboration with video designer and director of photography Andrzej Goulding, set and costume designer Frankie Bradshaw, composer and sound designer Max Pappenheim and lighting designer Sam House.

This is a quirky piece which, with a bit more focus, could have been a hard-hitting dramatic force about our relationship with the world around us.

On the day after a seal was killed by an out-of-control and off-lead dog on the banks of the River Thames, the main message I took from Assembly is that we should protect and respect all living creatures who live in the world.

All of us play a part in addressing global warming, improving air quality, ensuring clean and plentiful water. and keeping a culture of kindness and understanding for all.

The Assembly company are Angie Lieu, Brian McGinnis, David Cunningham, Jenneba Sie-Jalloh, Josiah Phoenix, Karen Walkden, Martin Fisher, Michael Turney, Patrick Burrows, Paul Ringo, Pen Riley, Rita Barry, Sadhbha Odufuwa-Bolger, Stephen Rooney, Ubah Egal, Victoria Valcheva, and Youyangg Song.

Assembly was streamed for free on the Donmar Warehouse YouTube channel on 20 March.

All images screencapped from the livestream.

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