Our Days of Rage in Old Vic Tunnels

In the last year, London has seen a series of demonstrations and acts of violence, going from the student marches against tuition fees through the trade union protest against cuts to the recent riots. What’s happened in some (but not all) of these is that an initially peaceful protest has been hijacked by an extreme minority of people, setting out to cause destruction and anarchy. When those who shout loudest are the only ones seeming to be heard, how effective can peaceful protest be?

At what point does a person decide that peaceful protest isn’t effective, and they must turn to violence? These are the questions being asked by the National Youth Theatre’s production Our Days or Rage in the Old Vic Tunnels.

The story follows Hanna, a girl brought up by her British mother and Libyan father from the Seventies through to today. For a while her family are friends with Colonel Gaddafi, who attends Hanna’s christening. However, when the relationship turns sour, the family are forced to Britain to take refuge from his regime. Hanna, played in a stunning central performance by Daniella Isaacs, tries to hide from her past, but is ultimately forced to confront her demons as she grows older.

The choice of setting for this play is perfect. The audience act as part of the show for many scenes, being moved between tunnels into different environments as the story progresses. At various stages I found myself in a cinema, a riot and an art gallery. The tunnels are incredibly atmospheric, and the sight of twitching, hanging bodies certainly lives up to the potential of the venue. The trains from Waterloo station rumble overhead, shaking the tunnels, and providing a sense of danger throughout.

Unfortunately, after a brilliant set up, the show loses its way. Towards the end, a character quotes Martin Luther King as saying that ‘Riots are the voice of the unheard’. The implications of this in the context of the play are that sometimes peaceful protest isn’t always the answer, but violence is. The play then attempts to justify its point with a suicide bombing. Doing this undermines a large part of the hard work the play had put in to make you sympathise with its characters, and ruins what had been a promising production. Considering that the violence at a Martin Luther King rally was usually being done to the protesters, the play ultimately shows a lack of understanding behind the power of effective peaceful protest.

Our Days of Rage is on until September 17 at:

The Old Vic Tunnels
Station Approach Road

Telephone: 020 7993 7420


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