The Capital

Birmingham Rep Studio


In a devised play about Birmingham, Jewellery Quarter based company Stan’s Café presented us with a stylised piece directed by James Yarker and devised by the company.

It is a depiction of every day city life, showing the lives and activities of the people within it. Stan’s Café reflect the range of people that make up a city while commenting on the importance of the infrastructure and accessibility that create the integral culture.

The company are pioneers of stylised theatre. It is not every day that an entire performance gets to be seen on two travellators working in opposite directions. The open space of the REP Studio was minimised to create a small black box within the performance space. It created a magnifying glass effect of drawing us into city life to show us deeply specific snippets of the daily happenings of people.

The hour and a half production had no dialogue. Instead, like a conveyor belt, the show depicted lovely screenshots of people who live and use the city. It was a completely devised performance and the artists clearly bought their experience and research to reflect a city for all people. Devisers Gerard Bell, Luanda Holness, Hema Mangoo, Craig Stephens and Amy Taylor are dynamic creators with bold ideas.

The presentation was deeply stylised, yet the performers in it are beautifully natural. Their interactions came in the form of mime and solitary actions that we all recognised. The simple act of reading a paper or drinking a coffee became a fascination to watch.

We saw the company slide through the travellators with scenes appertaining to ordinary day to day working and living life. You felt like you could be in a café people watching with this production. With at least sixty scenes, some included images of workers walking briskly to get to work, someone stopping by to give to the homeless, the lost tourist and the rambling photographer.

Each scene changed like a flash. It showed the diversity, ambition and difference in all who live in a modern city. The visual pictures were set to booming music, switching in tempo with each scene. Some images blended into each other, showing the natural flow of everyday life. At other times, we noticed a definite change of tempo. It was a great reminder of the jars and rough edges of city living.

The company indeed had a vision to depict real life in the city as naturally as possible, so much so that the mechanical workings at the back of the set were revealed, where the technical team ran up and down the stage to keep in time to put the set onto the travellators.

Stan’s café created a brilliant cross section of the people within the inner city. They showed us the entire spectrum of all who use and live in the city, good and bad. With this, there came a great power to understand one’s role within a community. The Capitol is a play about Birmingham, however the company do not explicitly tell us this. Because of its universal themes showing interweaving lives, this could be a production about any western city.

When you walk away from this production to enter the city again, the impact of the presentation suddenly strikes. The images that were depicted within the piece immediately jump out with vigour and colour. Stan’s Café also tell us that no city is without development. The production is so mighty due to the fact that they merely hold a mirror up to this aspect without comment, and it is up to us, as the audience to go away and to create change. Without telling us directly, this production gives us the responsibility as users within the city to look at the way in which we shape its space.

The Capital is a precious production. It is all the more appealing as the company share Birmingham as their place of work and creativity. In using purely visual means as a way of depicting general activities, we see a living and breathing depiction of diversity and life.

Elizabeth Halpin


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