While the media might like us to believe that this country’s class divide has narrowed, it falls once again to theatre to demonstrate just how large the gap has truly become. Drawing inspiration from the miners strikes, Amy Guyler’s energetic yet poignant The Nobodies, which ran at VAULT Festival, places the spotlight on society’s unseen and ignored, and the potential power that comes with mass unrest.
The closure of an NHS hospital is to have a very different impact on each of the three main characters at the centre of The Nobodies, and a relatively short opening sequence successfully reveals the character traits that will become so important further down the line. Following the death of an MP, Aaron finds himself in possession of a list of wealthy buyers for the hospital, and along with Curtis and Rhia set about blackmailing the people in society who already have the most, but are prepared to take even more.
Guyler’s quick witted play, guides us down an intricately laid path which sees the group of three expand in to a wider and more powerful movement. The impact the group has on society is well developed, but it still manages to maintain focus on our trio of protagonists, and their own internal struggles and disagreements.
Directed by Sam Edmunds and Vikesh Godhwani, the staging almost always creates an atmosphere of civil unrest. As crates and wooden planks are frenetically shifted into new positions, there’s an underlying feel of a tinderbox ready to ignite at any moment. Yet, we are allowed moments to laugh as well, the characters meet at a Zumba dance class and this influences the soundscape of salsa, samba and hip hop that is threaded throughout the production, all while a wall of floodlights shine a light on the important, and keep us in the dark when required.
The cast of three are required to not only play their central characters, but to pick up the myriad of figures who now feature so heavily in Aaron, Curtis and Rhia’s lives. Joseph Reed makes the most of his deviations away from Curtis, bringing a strong comedic element to the school master’s wife, or CEO of a payday loan company, before returning to the relentless intensity required for The Nobodies de facto leader.
Rhia undertakes the biggest transformation, pondering the rights and wrongs of the group’s actions and constantly trying to convince us that none of this is what she wanted. The character is in safe hands with Lucy Simpson, who ensures the audience are never quite sure whether they should be on her side or not. David Angland is strikingly impressive as Aaron, the son of a terminally ill mother faces difficult choices throughout, and Angland gives a sensitive and emotional portrayal of a character that we can all recognise.
Guyler’s The Nobodies is an astonishingly astute piece of theatre, bringing together themes that are so relevant in today’s society, and filled with ordinary characters responding to extraordinary circumstances. Through exceptional staging and strong performances, it manages to be gripping, playful, and unsettling all at the same time.
This production originally ran at Vault Festival in February 2020 with an embargo on reviews.