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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Who Do We Think We Are?
Southwark Playhouse Autumn 2014

Ten senior performers, ranging in age from early sixties to late eighties, share some of their memories and family stories, creating a collage of selected moments from the past century. 

Visible is a company made up largely of older actors, devoted to giving voice to a too-often overlooked generation and, not incidentally, to providing rewarding acting jobs for themselves. This show is the product of a couple of years of workshops eventually shaped into a text by writer Sonja Linden. 

Essentially the actors take turns telling stories, playing themselves or their parents or grandparents, with the others filling in supporting roles as needed. Episodes range from little more than a sentence or two to no more than three or four minutes each, and are arranged chronologically. 

So we begin with one grandfather's departure from Greece to a new life in America and another's departure from Canada to fight in the Great War, and go on from there, the actors' own childhood memories beginning to appear in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Chronology is the primary backbone – the published text calls for some contemporaneous episodes to be played together, though director Sue Lefton has generally separated them – though occasionally you sense an ironic or critical juxtaposition, as when one little girl's memory of the Warsaw Ghetto sits alongside another's of the easy life in colonial India. 

A no-doubt unexpected effect of the storytelling is the discovery that shared nostalgia is stronger than shared experience. The earliest episodes, of the adventures and travails of parents and grandparents, have the greatest emotional resonance, while the actors' own stories, even though many in the audience can identify with tales of, say, drug-taking in the 1960s or antiwar demonstrations in the 1970s, seem oddly thin. 

Still, Who Do We Think We Are? remains an admirable and entertaining piece, one its enviably energetic performer-writers are welcome to go on doing for as long as they wish.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Who Do We Think We Are? - Southwark Playhouse 2014

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