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Barnes People | Original Theatre (Online)

Barnes People is a series of monologues told through intimate interviews with four individuals, exploring the inner workings of the Royal Family, Government organisations and schemes. Unprompted and uninterrupted, the human nature to speculate and reflect steers these interviews forward. These interviews unflinchingly tackle and expose the effects that the brutality of a rigid system and high society expectations can lead to. Split into four segments, all written by Peter Barnes and directed by Philip Franks, and filmed by Tristan Shepherd, the series of interviews has picked an interesting variety of characters. 


"A True Born Englishman", featuring Adrian Scarborough, starts the show off with an insight into working for the Royal Family. With exceptionally tight writing and a nuanced performance, Scarborough brings forth the hidden agendas and proud superiority. With references to a younger, happier and more free version of himself, the list of benefits begins to wane in the light of what was sacrificed to rise through the ranks. Whilst audiences may be intrigued by what occurs behind closed doors, there's a tonality of sinister that comes from uncomfortably close shots of Scarborough drinking his tea. Yet at times, this segment does lose the attention of the audience, with the monotonous tone and in-depth detailing. 


"Rosa" featuring Jemma Redgrave is the strongest interview segment, with an entire arc in its short running time. Starting with an unsettling heartless reading and ruling of numbered cases explaining awful housing situations and pleading for council housing, the stark grimness grips the attention immediately. With the cases being read aloud, the audience are able to envision these lives. However the pain that radiates from these letters begins to infiltrate her, and overcome her with emotion, renounces the rigidity of government systems and confronts the belief that council housing is the solution to all problems. With building momentum and stories from real life, the segment feels more grounded and relatable, and therefore easier to watch. 


"Billy and Me" featuring Jon Culshaw is the show's most peculiar piece, featuring Michael a ventriloquist with his puppet Billy. Whilst it starts out as an impressive and entertaining conversation between the two in a showmanship way, it quickly descends into an uncomfortable and slightly heated conversation about Michael's own identity. The comedic duo is split when Billy reveals his ability to speak without Michael, and with the help of other ventriloquist puppets, confront Michael as he shares his inner demons with his friends. Whilst the conversation does reach dark places at times, it's ultimately a feel good piece, and creatively, it's wonderfully executed. 


"Losing Myself", featuring Matthew Kelly, is the shows final segment, and appropriately so, with the deep dive into how the dead are treated amongst the living. The Interview is stirring and moving as he describes the sense of losing time and self, and the lack of respect that the dead command. The intensity and sombre tones perfectly complement the reflection on humanity and it's a rambling thought process that pierces through the audience. 


The performers all do an excellent job. With the help of gentle music at times (Max Pappenheim) and often following the performers from their dressing room and watching them being mic-ed and settle into their seats, really helps make the show feel more natural. Although there are moments that feel voyeuristic, especially given the secrets that are revealed, ultimately the show aims to start conversations and encourage reflection on each element of everyday lives. 


Barnes People provides an insightful and powerful glimpse at the metaphorical circle of life through the four interviews. With brilliant writing, an interesting perspective and four strong performers, it's a show that widens horizons in how stories can be told. 


Original Theatre is an online streaming services in which theatre fans can pay £8.99 for a monthly subscription, or £99 for an annual subscription to gain access to a wide range of live-streamed productions. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


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