REVIEW: Manifesto (The Space Arts Centre) ★★★


Manifesto is a new play by award winning playwright Sebastian Rex showing at The Space, a performing arts centre based in a converted church on the Isle of Dogs. The Space is dedicated to nurturing artists and frequently programmes emerging talent at the start of their careers. The venue launched their in-house company, Space Productions, in 2007 with a commitment to staging accessible, ambitious and inventive theatre.

The show reunites some Space Productions alumni, including Rex, who was nominated for an Off West End Award in 2012 and director Danielle McIlven who received critical acclaim for her revival of Festen in 2013. Manifesto was written with the company, and looks at the rules we live by, why we make them, how we make them and what happens when they’re tested.

As the audience enters the theatre space, the actors engage us in conversation, offering biscuits and encouraging us to take our seats. They then begin their performance: “Listen to us! This play is our word!” Manifesto is a collection of fourteen short plays, each individual in style and characters, representing a point on the players’ Manifesto. The title of each play is projected on a screen with an old fashioned projector, the actors changing transparencies with each new title. The end of each play is marked by the bursting of a balloon and a blackout.

The cast of five; Emma Blackman, Damian Cooper, Adam Hemming, Sadie Parsons and Annabel Smith, play a range of roles, narrating the action for some plays and acting in others. The cast work well together, switching between characters quickly and with ease.

These plays are about the characters more than the location and so the set is simple, white plastic garden chairs, a box of toys, a table, the projector and screen.

Adam Hemming, Artistic Director of the Space describes Manifesto as “a chance to experiment with a bold, exciting new way of creating theatre”. I found the plays to be a mixed bag; while all performed with high energy by a talented cast, some plays resonated with me far more than others. My favourite was Point Eleven, which will be yours?

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans

MANIFESTO plays at The Space Arts Centre until 8 October 2016