BAC's latest innovative offering The Good Neighbour
is a collection of three narrative journeys relating to George Neighbour
(Tom Bowtell), a Clapham local who does not remember his past.
central journey, "Young Adventurers", is for children aged 6+ and
adults (also on offer is "Early Investigators" for younger kids and
"Intrepid Explorers" based in the streets of Clapham) and is a guided
treasure hunt around the BAC between beautifully stylised rooms hosted
by fun actors with different insights into the mystery.
belief and infectious energy of the guides and actors can make even the
most cynical adult believe that the future is unwritten, all you need
is love and there really is a sense of community in this behemoth of a
Upon entering one of these rooms we're greeted by a
low-lit room full of glass jars. The tinkling sound of dripping water
on glass sets the perfect tone of wonderment as the keeper of memories
(perfectly played by Matthew Blake) shows us projections of people's
lives through his assortment of jam jars. It's a true moment of
amazement and a tremendous technical feat.
"Kablooey!", another Clapham local and former raver Babs (Byrony
Kimmings) is smeared against the wall in an explosion-ravaged room.
There is an audible gasp from the children as the audience enters and
they take relish in releasing her from this enforced paralysis through
joke telling and ridiculous dancing, finding, naturally, that "laughter
is the best medicine".
Both of these rooms capture the
difficulty of presenting such nebulous life lessons while avoiding
condescension - the guides on the tour and actors by and large manage
this with aplomb. However, at times it's easy to feel that the cast are
carrying the narrative along with touch too much control and do not let
the young audience engage more fully with the mysterious treasure hunt
While I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the
bowels of the BAC, the children raced on ahead looking for the next
interesting set. The whole piece suffers somewhat from an uneven level
of fantasy and while gorgeously crafted experimental rooms within the
faded darkness of the BAC make for an interesting contrast, energy
levels flag in the moments between them.
A bit more
coherency in the connections between the rooms and the overall narrative
arc would polish an otherwise exciting adventure.
Good Neighbour is a joyous story that engenders a sense of
site-specific wonder and this is no mean feat in a city where we are
told to be pleasant to others while austerity bites hard, the threat of
riots loom and East London recovers from a summer police state.
"Young Adventurers" is fantastic fun, perfect for children and such an
endearing and honest piece gives a true sense that without embarrassment
or morose sneering, Londoners can still be good neighbours.