Re:Home (The Yard)

Cressida Brown returns to the Beaumont Estate in this sequel to her 2006 production, ”Home”

The cast of Re:Home at The Yard
The cast of Re:Home at The Yard

Cressida Brown‘s production is a sequel to a verbatim piece ten years ago about the rehousing of inhabitants of the notorious Beaumont estate in Leyton, which became low-rise genteel after high-rise hell. This time round, a fleet-footed but frankly dull and confusing sixty minutes investigate the consequences of this programme in the community.

Four actors – Waleed Akhtar, T’Nia Miller, the strikingly whey-faced Hasan Dixon and the expressively gamine Rose Riley – spout snippets of interviews with residents past and present as the crack down on crack dens results in migration to Chingford, Romford and even Watford, and a renewed scent of flowers.

In a post-show discussion with, among others, the Mayor of Waltham Forest and an urban geographer, we learned that, usually, 50 per cent of "re-housed" residents return to an upgraded/improved home. With Beaumont, only 234 out of nearly 5,000 returned, though a few youngsters had tribal homing instincts and old ladies popped back to walk the dog.

The show’s not clear about whether anything’s really better or worse, and the overlapping of the first show references and latest testimony is not clarified in the action, despite some fuzzy film and projected captions.

The show needs bouncing along into something more dramatic and noisy, more story-line. There are precedents in this, such as Joan Littlewood’s brilliant production about another East End tower block (which collapsed), Ronan Point, or various housing shows on the fringe over the past decades; this seems a tame and tepid addition to the roster, neither urgent nor inflamed.

That said, I enjoyed my first visit to the Yard enormously. What a great venue, atmospherically housed in an old warehouse near Victoria Park, with a great bar (last night serving jerk chicken, barbecued wings and dumplings) and a small wooden amphitheatre in a wide room giving an air of space and height.

Brown’s Offstage Theatre Company have responded with an echo of the seating in tiers of planked terracing, an under-used bonus except when the set suddenly fractures and is invaded by chalk drawings and video graffiti; typically of the production, I couldn’t make out whether this was supposed to be a defacement of the old estate or an apocalyptic throw-back on the new.

Re:Home runs at The Yard until 5 March.

Read Cressida Brown's guest blog for WhatsOnStage here