2020 Collection 2 Review

Tara Theatre, London – until 26 June 2021

Reviewed by Emily Cliff

4 ½ ****

History. History is something we learn from, tell stories about and look back on in both fondness and in reflection. There’s no doubt that through this past year we have lived through enough revolutionary historical events to last us a million lifetimes; however it truly takes a creative mind to harness all the pain, sadness and loss experienced in 2020 and turn it into a collection of touching, close to home stories of normal people. And Abdul Shayek does exactly that.

The monologues performed in this collection of heart touching, down to earth stories gave us all an insightful gaze into the lives of shop workers, NHS staff and families living at home. The Tara Theatre is well known for specializing in performances surrounding the black, asian and minority ethinc groups in the area, giving people young and old the platform and the voice they need to make a difference in the world.

The first of four monologues (Tales Of The Past) was just as captivating as it was touching. Following on from the COVID crisis in Wuhan the story told in this monologue gives us the insight of a working young woman trapped with her mother finding ways to process grief whilst trying to come to grips with the new found freedom ahead of the rest of the world. Carmina Bernhardt perfectly displays the emotions of coming to grips with grief in a way most young people struggle with. Her deliverance was conversational and friendly whilst being deeply personal, reeling the audience in and making them feel a part of the character with all the highs and the lows.

Systematic racism has been fought and protested for years over time. However over the years there have been very little instances of actual change. The third monologue in this production (A New America) portrayed the struggles and translated them into a heart wrenching story about racism, self doubt and community spirit. David Webber tells this story of a decaying American dream where for every step taken forward, two are taken back. Creative sound and lighting in this monologue showed not only the effect of patriotic racism through the eyes of a working class black man, but the community spirit to help, and hopefully eradicate such behaviours. The story of a community coming together is something that is spoken so little about in the modern times, recent and unprecedented times have made this kind of interaction more important than ever. Both Abdul Shayek and David Webber managed to capture and harness something completely beautiful and organic out of a story of sadness, pain and sorrow.

The final monologue, and perhaps the most breathtaking was The Monster Inside. We clapped, banged pots, screamed and shouted for the NHS every Thursday back in the summer of 2020, but we never really confronted how overwhelmed nurses and doctors were. Anxiety is a theme that was very prominent through this production and even more explicitly in the last monologue. A poetic double act which saw the looming monster of anxiety creeping in and breathing down the neck of an overworked, underpaid, deliriously tired NHS worker tackled loss anxiety and the crumbling mental health of nurses and doctors that had to face COVID every day with a brave face. The chemistry between Moe Bar-El and Nicholas Khan was electric, each anxious thought and line sparked more and more until a ball of raw exhaustion exploded over the stage, seeping from the characters already deterring mental state. This performance was truly captivating.

One of the joys of independent theatre is you never quite know what you are going to get. While West End and Broadway productions have a certain aura surrounding them independent theatre has a completely different, almost organic energy coming out. History was made this year, and 2020 captured its essence wholeheartedly through the touching stories from around the globe. The Tara theatre continues to challenge the industry and to make it a more diverse safe space. As Abdul said at the beginning of the show “a quiet revolution is starting here” and you certainly don’t want to miss it.