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Theatre Review High Rise Estate of Mind, Battersea Arts Centre/Touring

Music, poetry and storytelling give powerful voice to a generation's fears about London's housing crisis

THIS year’s Homegrown festival at Battersea Arts Centre is dubbed Occupy and High Rise Estate of Mind lives up to that insurgent billing to thrilling effect.

The hour-long ride is broken up into short, sharp bursts which switch between the deeply personal “real world” moments of the four performers and a dystopian narrative of a wealth-segregated tower block, clearly influenced by JG Ballard’s 1975 novel High Rise.

In contrast to the seamless physical elements of the work, its narratives rub against each other and feel somewhat forced together. Luckily, the musical element manages to provide an enduring adhesive.

Conrad Murray is the driving force behind the show and it is his music which really elevates it by gilding through grime, hip-hop and more traditional pop with ease.

Using a loop pedal, a guitar and a sultry voice he crafts short, moving sketches of the unspoken tension that exists in a world where “austerity and prosperity” live uneasily side by side.

Equally full of the same insightful observations and humour that colour Murray’s songs are the real-life tales of each performer, which audibly resonate with the young audience.

Lakeisha Lynch-Stevens’s story of her 69-year-old mum, still working two jobs to pay off her mortgage on a two-bedroom flat, is living testament to a housing hierarchy which fails to adequately provide for working people. The same can be said for Paul Cree's turbulent journey through “17 addresses in 15 years.”

Eventually, the Ballardesque dystopia runs out of steam and the Londoncentric focus might prevent the show from resonating as deeply as it might elsewhere around the country. But the rest of this Beats & Elements production soars to great heights.

The mission of the Homegrown festival is to amplify “young and underrepresented voices” and this show has them booming around the four corners of your mind.

Runs until March 30, box office: bac.org.uk, then at Camden People's Theatre from May 7-11, box office: cptheatre.co.uk

 

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