Review Round-Ups

Critics mixed over Almeida's Little Revolution

Alecky Blythe’s new verbatim piece opened at the Almeida earlier this week

Michael Shaeffer and Imogen Stubbs
Michael Shaeffer and Imogen Stubbs
© Manuel Harlan

Theo Bosanquet


…What distinguishes Little Revolution from her previous work is that [Alecky] Blythe puts herself into the action. This has decidedly mixed results. Although it provides a very clear insight into her process, which students of verbatim technique will no doubt appreciate, I found it distracted from the issue she was attempting to understand. The narrative, perhaps unintentionally, becomes more about the theatremaker than the riots themselves… Joe Hill-Gibbins' atmospheric production effectively creates an air of mounting panic… It's slickly executed, running at just 85 minutes straight through, and certain performances stand out… But when all is said and done the play tells us far more about the middle class response to the riots than it does about the riots themselves…

Michael Billington


I admire Alecky Blythe's form of verbatim theatre, in which people's speech is exactly reproduced, but I'm slightly puzzled by the timing of her play about the London riots of August 2011… To be fair, Blythe is more concerned with how communities react to crisis… Blythe certainly captures the sense of a fractured community… All this is fascinating and comes across clearly in Joe Hill-Gibbins's production, which radically reconfigures the Almeida and combines professional actors with a community chorus representing local youth. But I would like to have heard more young voices telling us about their privations and discontents… Her 85-minute play is good as far as it goes. But it doesn't begin to investigate whether the sense of rage and injustice that was so potent in 2011 has lessened or increased with time.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard


…We get an impression of the chaos convulsing the streets — the looting and the circling police helicopters — yet there's not enough sense of menace… Comic moments outnumber edgy ones, and the most amusing characters are Sarah and Tony, a couple of well-off hippies played with a delicious sense of the absurd by Imogen Stubbs and Michael Shaeffer. In a strong cast that includes Lucian Msamati and Ronni Ancona, the richest source of laughs is the versatile Rufus Wright… But while Little Revolution touches on interesting issues… we see most of the characters too briefly, and it’s frustrating to hear little from the rioters. Instead the dominant voices are middle-class. The focus is in the wrong place, and despite consisting of authentic testimony it doesn’t feel bruisingly real.

Paul Taylor


…for all its self-reflexiveness knowingness, her art seems to raise issues of prurience and exploitation that leave one feeling uncomfortable over and above the discomfiture that designedly and legitimately prompts. I think that I laughed out loud more than any other audience member at the press night of this specially in-the-round Almeida production, beautifully orchestrated by Joe Hill-Gibbins and teeming with sharply etched performances from a fine bunch of actors… here with Blythe doing a consciously annoying self-caricature at the centre, the accent is so on the medium being the message as a class-divided tries to come together to raise money for repairs to the looted shop that the show manages to feel as self-indulgent as it is belated and fails to send you out into the night avid to see social change.

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph


…It’s an absolutely compelling 90 minutes… It’s very much an ensemble effort: a dozen professional actors, led by Blythe, have been integrated with a drilled mob of London volunteers. But there are some well-known names in the mix. Impressionist Ronni Ancona convinces… Imogen Stubbs amuses… And Game of Thrones regular Lucian Msamati shines… Diverging opinions emerge through a disconcerting, often comical haze of confused exclamations, growling monosyllables and whirling non-sequiturs… Little Revolution doesn’t quite succeed in turning old news into a headline-grabber again. And yet it feels like a very welcome revisiting of uncomfortable terrain. Director Joe Hill-Gibbins has transformed this gentrified venue into a down-at-heel in-the-round space, adorned with scaffolding and temporary chipboard walls… I predict a hit.