Wilton's Music Hall, 26 Sept - 27 Oct 2018.
Created by James Graham
Writers: Aaron Douglas Chloe Mi Lin Ewart Alan Gordon Adam Hughes Ella Langley Himanshu Ojha Sumerah Srivastav Naomi Westerman
Director: Thomas Hescott
Cast: Samuel James Penny Layden Nav Sidhu Sean Michael Verey Sophie Wu
Photographer: Simon Annand
James Graham’s Sketching, in the vein of Charles Dicken’s Sketches by Boz, explores the lives of a variety of characters who inhabit contemporary London over twenty-four hours in the city. The idea is a worthy one from an award-winning writer, drawing on the skills of numerous emerging writers and offering them a platform. Using Dicken’s snapshots of London and Londoners as inspiration facilitates the idea and the narrative. Even more fitting is the setting of the restored Wilton Music Hall, bringing the Victorian together with the modern age.
With all good intentions and clever referencing however, Sketching falls short of the familiar adage “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Some writers are more skilled than others; some sketches work, whilst others flail. Moreover, trying to grasp the progression of a patchwork of disparate (and at times far-fetched) stories and wondering how they are possibly interlinked is, quite simply, tricky.
Selecting a range of contemporary Londoners risks falling back on stereotypes. And in Sketching they are in force (the Syrian immigrant, the sex trafficker, the squatter and so on). The East Enders are too Dickensian for contemporary London. The Scottish drag queen is an archetype which has been overdone over time.
“In the end, out of the melting pot of Sketching, we find characters and scenes which might warrant a complete play.”
Curiously, what Sketches does offer to the multitude of participants is the variety of roles for the actors to show their versatility. Even though we know actors are meant to be able to perform different characters, it is a pleasure to find they can. The cast handles their multiple personalities with skill.
In the end, out of the melting pot of Sketching, we find characters and scenes which might warrant a complete play. And in that sense, Graham and Hescot have worked their magic. The separating couple is my choice. What’s yours?