First time at Theatre 503* in Battersea last night thanks to playwright Carla Grauls whose new play Occupied is being performed as part of the LabFest 2012 - a festival of full-length, new plays.
It's a great little theatre (if a little warm at this time of year), perfect for showcasing new writing and Occupied immediately grabs your attention. Set in a public loo, Alex (Mark Conway) is using the facilities, trousers around his ankles reading a paper, Andreya (Rosie Hilal) is playing Rule Britannia very slowly on an accordion and a Tom (Luke Waldock) lies tied up and seemingly unconscious on the floor.
Tom has been kidnapped by Alex and Andreya who are Romanian immigrants living in the toilet. Alex wants to know how to be British and plans to find out from Tom. And so we embark on an absurdist journey of cultural stereotypes and prejudices, learning a little on the way about what it takes to survive or even merely exist in modern western society. Each character, we discover, is running away from something and hoping to find something better.
It is a clever premise, nicely executed and staged, at times funny and quite poignant and rattles along at an entertaining pace in the main.
However, for the subject matter I would have like it to have been just a little bit more challenging and have had a little more back story for Alex and Tom. For the latter and without giving too much away, there isn't enough to satisfactorily explain how he ended up in the situation he did and I'm not sure whether we are supposed to feel sympathetic or whether he is just an attention seeking melodramatic.
Plaudits must go to the cast though who have had limited time to rehearse and you really couldn't tell - certainly three names I'll keep an eye out for, as I will Carla Grauls. It will be interesting to see what they all do next.
Occupied is only playing for three nights and finishes tomorrow.
* Get there early grab a drink in the Latchmere pub and head upstairs to the theatre where there are some huge comfy sofas.