Review: The Architect at GDIF ★★★★★

Review: The Architect at GDIF ★★★★★

A masterful must-see immersive experience aboard a red bus travelling across South-East London, The Architect inspires us to seek justice and realise our dreams.

The Architect | 6-10 September 2023 | Secret South-East London Location | £12

Commemorating the life and memory of Stephen Lawrence, three decades following his senseless death by murder, audiences board an iconic double decker bus in a secret South–East London location, encountering a 55-minute journey that explores – through intricately constructed vignettes of ordinary living – our shared longing to belong in a city that has ceased smiling. 

‘You’re safe here’, repeats the effervescent Llewella Gideon, who helms this superb cast of leading black artists – in her role as The Conductor – with spirit, love, and care. As the production’s narrator, she makes the audience feel at home, offering them mints, wisdom, and sing-a-longs between scenes that shift through time and revolve around the life of Karl Collins’ The Architect, a 48-year-old Londoner of Caribbean heritage, who, through a process of imagining, planning, and designing cities, dreams of building a future London where all residents may feel this sense of home, belonging, and safety everywhere in the city, far beyond The Conductor’s bus. 

Gideon gently probes audiences to remember a time when we’ve waited…to speak, to arrive, for justice, for a promotion, for love. Between contemplating our own memories of waiting as we watch the sunset descend around us and the streets of Eltham – the site of Lawrence’s death, his memorial plaque, and volunteer joggers running in his honour – pass us by, we witness a cast of captivating characters predict, plan, and await their own futures. A Caribbean woman envisioning herself ‘chilling on Sundays with my kids and husband’. A pregnant soon-to-be mother hesitating over a name for her son – determined to give him a name that will ‘motivate him to dream big’. A teenage son planning a party and spotting a beautiful eye-catching reader – a potential love. A middle-aged lady afraid her son will stand out ‘in a part of London that looks at and judges our black boys’. Throughout these engrossing encounters, we observe a mother and son’s relationship traverse the various seasons of their lives. As he dreams of a London that belongs to everyone, she dreams of the world knowing him for who he is. 

GDIF and Actors Touring Company produce a heart-warming homage to Lawrence and a spellbinding theatrical journey through time and South-East London that culminates in The Architect’s Dream, a free stand-alone event in Woolwich’s General Gordon Square, accompanied by Steel-Pan music, which will surely leave audiences moved and motivated to further materialise his dream. The performers are uniformly excellent – alongside Gideon and Collins are Danielle Kassarate, Daniel Ward, Dalumuzi Moyo, Omar Austin, Doreene Blackstock and Shayde Sinclair, all utterly compelling in their roles.

The Architect imagines a future that embraces everyone and empowers audiences to step inside that vision for themselves. To see the potential in a dream that serves us all and makes us smile again. 

This breath-taking production plays until September 10th and is an immersive experience like no other. Get your tickets while you can and arrive on time. You won’t want to miss this bus.