It’s not often soap operas traverse through the screen to the stage. But that’s precisely how ten writers, led by Bola Agbaje and Rachel De-lahay brought a slice of Peckham to Sloane Square, in what can only be described as flash theatre that frivolously forays into the avenues of Peckham.
Ten five-minute episodes were originally streamed online, before an omnibus was performed to a live audience in the Bussey Building as part of Open Court; the summer festival that saw the theatre transformed into a hub of activity and electric energy. This bumper episode has now transferred to Sloane Square, creating a communal soap opera experience in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, complete with comfy sofas, TV screens and all the markings of soap land.
Enterprising Lashanna is on the prowl for a new home for her underground hair salon. The local job centre is under threat of closure, whilst the “minted” James has plans to redevelop the entire area by building modern flats. Against a backdrop of photographs of Peckham, the fictional community become embroiled in the trappings of daily (and soap) life, as well as a preponderant plan which threatens the identity of their shared home.
The plotlines for Peckham: The Soap, came to fruition following community workshops held in Peckham. Open auditions were also held in the vicinity to cast the 16 strong-ensemble, so there’s a very tangible community feel to the piece.
Naturally, the five-minute episodes feel choppy. A certain frustration soon sets in at the brisk pace and lack of focus on characters, with the latter episodes flat-lining and leading the piece into an unfortunate lull.
The cast, to their credit attempt to maintain consistency on the ever shifting stage, and special mention must be made of Kola Bokinni, who plays the petulant, but disarming Joey, fighting to save the job centre, he previously found to be so divisive and unhelpful.
Despite being a somewhat anti-climatic piece, it’s encouraging to see a community come together in the name of theatre and the creative journey, which has traditionally fed work into the Theatre Local in Peckham, reversing back onto Sloane Square.
Peckham: The Soap Opera, Royal Court Theatre