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Immersive Theatre and Found Spaces: 'Still Lives' at the Old Waiting Room, Peckham Rye Station

★★★


I stood outside the Old Waiting Room of Peckham Rye Station, waiting to be welcomed inside for Lost Text/ Found Space’s production of Noel Coward’s Still Lives. I wondered why we were all asked to wait outside, with a blue ‘admit one’ ticket, but my question was quickly answered when the six female actors adorning the same blue suits appeared. They all uttered the same phrase, urging the audience members to follow them as we were about to miss a train. Hesitant at first, one by one audience members entered the building, a derelict old waiting room, filled with chairs that were dotted about the space. I took a seat and waited for the performance to begin.  


Still Lives, adapted from the 1930’s play by Noel Coward and later inspiring the film Brief Encounter, is intertwined with another of Coward’s plays, Quadrille, adapted by Dan Rebellato. Directed by Rebecca McCutcheon, Still Lives charts the fleeting affair catalysed by chance encounters between Laura (Grace Haydn) and Alec (Georgina Peters) as well as Albert (Annabel Marlow) and Myrtle (Jade-Marie Jospeh). This is intertwined with Quadrille’s exploration of the repercussions of an English aristocrat (Flora Wesley) eloping with an American businessman's wife (Izabelle Lee) and later the abandoned partners (Flora Wellesley and Izabelle Lee) following their spouses and ultimately falling in love with each other. The play’s main theme is love, centred around characters who meet by chance and find themselves unexpectedly having romantic feelings for one another.  


This adaptation of the two plays was clever in its attempts to build upon the existing material. Adding dance, movement, and song to the existing play text contributed to the exploration of the fragility of personal choices and intimate encounters. While the actors performed with passion and vigour, and I’m always elated by a feminist re-telling, I found it fairly confusing to keep up with the action of the play due to each actor playing multiple roles. In addition, the way in which the seats were arranged led to me having to squint at certain points due to production lights shining directly in my eye line. For the best seats (as you can choose your own), I would recommend sitting towards the back on the left-hand side. 


The production was commendable in its attention to detail. From the mock train ticket I was handed to the background noises of trains passing through Peckham Rye and even the choice to stage it in an old waiting room, the team created an amazing ambience that emerged the audience into the setting of the play. Given, the train noises did make it difficult to hear the actors for brief moments, but it offered a unique, immersive theatre experience I have not encountered before. For a small production, I would certainly encourage you to check this play out during its short run.  


Still Lives is on at the Old Waiting Room in Peckham Rye Station from 2nd-13th July. Tickets can be found here.


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