“a rare and original theatrical treat” – Time Out
Open House by Helena Thompson was a unique show about an urban family falling apart after the death of a son, told in ‘wraparound’ style in a crumbling London flat. The audience eavesdropped on new lovers through doors, watched secrets through tumbledown walls, dodged smashing plates at a macabre wedding celebration and and sat side by side with the actors as the story unfolded around them.
Where it all started!
Open House was my first show with SPID Theatre Company at Kensal House, a social housing estate in West London. Whilst we were rehearsing in the dilapidated community rooms, kids from the flats banged on our door to find out what was going on, and that was the start of a journey in which a show about community gave birth to a community arts company.
SPID continues to make ‘wraparound’ professional shows, and also runs a youth theatre and fantastic arts/heritage projects for the local community as well as programming and curating the estate community centre. I’m the Associate Director for SPID, and its with this unique company that I’ve developed my aesthetic of collapsing the distance between the actor and the audience. Find out more about SPID here.
The show did brilliantly, sold out, had its run extended and prompted the Kensal House residents organisation and the local council to invite us to take up residence there. The rest is history! Here’s what the press had to say about Open House:
Time Out’s Pick of the Week
The fun starts before the play begins: first the audience must find the theatre – the stylish, elusive Kensal House, in darkest Ladbroke Grove. On the ground floor, a single flat (number 666) has been transformed by Spid theatre company into a dilapidated bedsit that, littered with overflowing ashtrays, broken pianos and half-empty wine-bottles, seems more like a crack house than a performance space.
Moving fluidly from room to room, guided by music, dialogue and cunning lighting changes, ‘Open House’ explores the tangled mess left behind after the violent death of a young man who once lived there. The house belongs to Charlie, an ageing boho who has made an almost psychotic effort not to alter a hair of his home since his wife died, and who is only too pleased when his daughter Marie’s friends move in. But with the arrival of a genial hooker and a repressed, grieving brother, the paper-thin fabric holding this arrangement together begins to tear…
With Rachel Grunwald’s superb direction and Stephen Evan Graham’s flawless design, this production generates an atmosphere so tensely dramatic that the characters take on a dimension rarely experienced on a conventional stage. The scenes between Mich Duffy’s aching Marie and Kevin Murphy’s deceptively deviant Josh in particular are at once raw and magically etherial.
In all, a rare and original theatrical treat.
* * * *
REVIEW FOR TIME OUT BY LUCY POWELL
You can see SPID’s entry for Open House here