Bold and Original Theatre That Shines Light on the Dark and the Unseen

Just breath! Fog Everywhere, a Camden People’s Theatre production, is one of the more unusual artistic opportunities in that it reminds the audience of the harm involved in a vital and simple act of daily life in London.

Known for its foggy air and sinister atmosphere, the British capital has reached appalling levels of pollution. In January, it was reported that the yearly toxic legal limit was broken by the city in just five days.

So small it cannot be seen, apart from the black stains on the tissue after blowing your nose or when checking the train directions in the grey and obscure underground tunnels. London isn’t mysterious. It is just very dirty.

With the issue of air pollution in mind, a group of young Londoners directed by CPT’s artistic director Brian Logan explores the arguments and risks of pollution in the city. The result is Fog Everywhere.

Dark and greyish colours dominate the stage, with few exceptions such as splashes of green from plant pots, rigorously positioned at the back of the scene.

The air is foggy, but that is not due to the gloomy weather of the city, rather the “invisible” pollution that surrounds its inhabitants. Revealing what the eye finds difficult to see is the challenge of these young actors from Kingsway College.

pollution has its impact on a deeper level

As the current state of politics or other injustices, such as race discrimination, compete for the headlines, why should the all-knowing hustling Londoner care about a matter that cannot even be seen?

If hidden to the eyes, pollution has its impact on a deeper level, blackening the inside and with numerous side-effects on physical condition and mental health.

Split for the majority of the performance in two factions, one group tries to persuade the other to understand the serious issue lurking in the open spaces and large roads of the metropolis. The other half of the performers are much more interested in talking about civil rights or political injustices, to the rhythm of grime music and rapping lines.

The papers and news bulletins are making efforts to shout more and more about discrimination and inequality. Environmental stories are struggling to fit into the agenda. With statistics and researches showing a gloomier picture, the nonchalance of British attitude towards the problem is shameful.

The story of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde is fittingly revived for the protagonist's transformation. As the despicable creature arises from the respectable professor in dark nights, so the industrious Londoners start suffering noisy and painful illnesses in the fog of the sleepless city. Some change from within, some go through a more monstrous mutation. One metamorphosis may be less dramatic than another, but the outcome would be the same.

The play includes a couple of game-interactions with the audience, and devises original ways to communicate boring figures and significant facts, such as the rap challenge, or the pitching session for revolutionary gadgets to navigate through the polluted air of the city.

 

nOthing seems to affect the bigger picture

The final sequence becomes a brilliant sketch on human regression, seen from the grimy air of London. If the city was known for the smoky chimneys of the industrial revolution, now technology allows a more advanced way of living: the cost is still fog everywhere. Human progress helps us move freely in the city, equipped with backpacked plants, mouth and nose covered with thick masks, and purchasing an increasing amount of goods that were once available clean but are now purified by third parties.

The future looks more restrictive and less like progress than all the revolutions and battles for our rights may have foreseen. Equipment and other tools can try to make the air a bit more breathable, but nothing seems to affect the bigger picture.

Unusually, there is no plot line defined throughout the show, but the performance is presented as sequences of short acts and confrontation among the young. In this lies the originality of the play: putting the adolescents - and only them - at the centre, stripped of possible light storyline that would categorize it as for-young-only production. The show opens questions for everyone on our relationship with technology and prompts a more careful and concerned look towards the “invisible” fog.

Supported by King’s College Cultural Institute, the Wellcome Trust, the Cockayne Foundation and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation, the in-house production features in the Camden People’s Theatre programme of Shoot The Breeze, offering a fortnight of works on and about climate change.

Not to be forgotten, pick up the practical checklist on ways to reduce pollution included in the performance information sheet: big changes start from small actions.

Fog Everywhere runs at Camden People’s Theatre from 7th - 11th November 2017.

Cristiana Ferrauti

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