Review: Common by Teatro Vivo in Sydenham Wells Park ★★★★★

Review: Common by Teatro Vivo in Sydenham Wells Park ★★★★★

Teatro Vivo deliver another exuberant theatrical triumph, this time delving into the history of land enclosures in South East London.

We’ve been huge fans of Lewisham-based site specific theatre group Teatro Vivo for more than a decade now, ever since we were wowed by their promenade interpretation one Homer’s Odyssey in Deptford back in 2012. One of our highlights of 2023 was Dangerous Games, their deliciously playful take on Dangerous Liaisons which started in a Deptford pub and involved ‘breaking in’ to our local library!

So, fair to say we had high expectations for Common, written by Bernadette Russell and promising ‘a theatrical journey…celebrating the things that we love enough to fight for’. And, of course, they deliver.

A promenade performance exploring local histories of land ownership might sound like, Common is an immersive walking tour, dramatic re-enactment and history lesson combined. The performers – Nadia Nadif, Endy Mckay and Michael Wagg, led by Teatro Vivo Artistic Directors Kas Darley & Mark Stevenson – switch and change roles as we are guided through 400 years of protest and pitched battles in the spaces formerly comprising Sydenham Common.

As ever with a Teatro Vivo production, there’s a sense that logistical somersaults are being invisibly performed, marshalling a large audience through parks and along open streets, stopping traffic and commandeering a playing field. However, it is a testament to the power of the individual performances, and the stories they relate, that the mechanics disappear entirely – for a little under two hours, it really feels like the audience owns this traveling stage as it meanders from Sydenham Wells Park to a fire-lit climax in Albion Millennium Green.

Special mention must also go to the talented Community Chorus who dance, guide and steal one particular scene as a flock of farm animals!

Not many shows can boast of both entertaining and educating – Common does both with brio, a glint in the eye and a swagger in the step. Don’t miss this epic history lesson, and a reminder of the power of protest.