‘They’re not dead, the names we keep saying and keep calling out. They’re not dead.’
The Vaults, in the arches of Waterloo station with trains rumbling above every ten minutes is the right theatre space to grieve, ask questions, think. After Orlando, performed by Chaskis Theatre did just that on Monday, six months to the day of the horrific event.
A collection of over 60 short monologues and scenes by different playwrights, After Orlando has been performed across the world this Autumn and Winter. Monday night showcased 22 of those readings with an 11-strong ensemble cast, and they were all strong. It’s impossible to place the talent of one cast member above the others.
— Chaskis Theatre (@ChaskisTheatre) December 13, 2016
A range of characters took to the stage. The older man reminded of the roll call of honour for Aids victims in New York as a young Latino man reads out the 49 victim names. The tired but determined mother, travelling the world with her shopping trolley on a one-woman gun amnesty. The gay son asking ‘would my mother claim my dead body?’ as his boyfriend tries to give him a blowjob.
These five minute scenes mostly only gave time to hear one-dimensional voices, yet together the narratives of gun control, discrimination and populist discourses came through. Two scenes in particular saw characters trying to piece together the complexities of it all. There was the christian Chick-Fil-A worker who asks ‘don’t we need more than just prayer? as she struggles, like us all, to reconcile the unlimited joy of a night out with the terror that happened. And a visiting tourist on holiday wondered what ‘one narrative to stick to’: Islamic terrorism, mental health, masculinity or gun control?
There was humour alongside the anger and disbelief. That’s the narrative of 2016 isn’t it? There’s so much despair, we have to laugh at it just to get through. Everybody Gets A Stick stood out as a parent/teacher meeting reduced the ridiculousness of gun control to every child on the playground having sticks to hit each other with. And one biting line stayed with me in the immediate hazy reaction to the shooting. A drag queen hides in the toilets, but finds lawmakers blocking her way:
Can we have your blood? We need to write a policy and we don’t have a pen.’
I will never forget tonight.
That tidal wave of love was one of the proudest moments of my life. Thank you @thevaultsuk for your open arms
— Huw (@HuwParmenter) December 13, 2016
22 scenes was a lot to pack in, and I could dissect each one if only I could remember them, or get my hands on the full script (I’d be first in line to buy the full collection). Half that number in one act would have been enough. Every scene was read faultlessly and fluidly, with some sensitive acoustic songs including a slowed down version of Dancing On My Own, which I did not hate. (For any doubters, the curtain call was to Robyn and the only recorded version of that song in existence.
The Orlando Pulse Shooting on Sunday 12th June was a moment. Pivotal, watershed, historical? None of those descriptions seems right but the event, media reporting and non-reporting, outpouring of grief and vigils around the world instantly showed it to be a moment; perhaps ‘the biggest for us and that’s really important’, as one character noted while watching the rolling news. After Orlando was a powerful reminder of that through anger and hope. The issues at its core are still there and largely unchanged, now with a (Republican) elephant in the room. I left asking, what’s my place now, after Orlando? Because we all have one, and I sure don’t want to waste it.
— Rowan Polonski (@RowanPolonski) December 12, 2016
Next week, of course I’ll be doing an end of year review and 2017 preview.