Sonya Suraci went to see the Yard Theatre’s newest offering and was left reeling from the provocative experience.
Navigating in between parked white vans, large puddles, and the ample dark swaths of Queens Yard in Hackney Wick, there are twin warehouses still occupied at night. The opening of the first spills sharp fluorescent light on the wet pavement, promising the nondescript fixings of a late-shift. Pushing through the industrial-style clear plastic curtains of the other, however, marks the entrance to the congenial and creative space that is the Yard Theatre.
The converted warehouse has been delightfully transformed by reclaimed and recycled materials, becoming half theatre and half bar-restaurant. And while hybridity has been more than a theme in venues recently, here it is an undeniably attractive one; a friendly fellow slouching behind the bar is more than happy to advise you on craft beer or a bite to eat, while you furrow your eyebrows and talk with your hands about the play you just saw.
The program I was handed names the Swedish playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri and, quite mysteriously, the cast members are labelled “1”, “2”, and “3”. Without too much time to ponder this, the play opens quickly and with a great sense of urgency. Three women on stage; chiding, cajoling, condescending each other like sisters, until the intimacy of the relationships signal something much more familiar than sibling rivalry.
Schizophrenic, the three women are the same woman, but at different ages, with different desires and dispositions, fears and insecurities, dreams and delusions. There are, in fact, only three spirited actresses in the entire play – although the title implies that there are many more versions of our one polymorphic protagonist. The women bounce and scream and cry with enormous energy around the simple and sturdy-looking white set. “1”, “2”, and “3” flit from re-enacting past scenes to fantasising about the future. The versatility of the actresses, who effortlessly and seamlessly change roles and genders, adds texture to the story and a dream-like quality to the fast-paced script.
The play runs as one continuous episode, whirring and circulating, but never pausing. Scene changes are imperceptible, while the urgent acting and rioting emotions allow the play to push forward, with never quite enough time in between hurdles for the audience to catch their breath.
This is a play that spatializes the internal wars that we keep hidden below our skin, and often against our own admission. And like in wars, there are casualties. There are attempted suicides and there are murders on stage. Near the end of the play, one of the three ,(which one? does it matter?), calls out desperately to the others, the ones that she killed in some scheme to be successful or loveable or blissfully conventional; but they stand in darkness on either end of the set, unyielding, repeating, “You’ve mixed us up for someone else”.
Pungent and cutting, seeing The Hundred We Are is a deeply personal experience, if something of a whirlwind. The ending brings no answers, only questions. We’re transfixed, yet wondering which battles were lost and which women were left to starve, such that your own mother’s unquenchable zeal for political theory mildewed to a girlish interest in 50 Shades of Grey. And you? Which one of you is calling the shots? At what cost?
Go see this one.
The Hundred We Are runs until November 8th.