Monday, 14 April 2014

Occupied at Theatre503


CHALLENGING our preconceptions of immigration is the main thrust of a new play now on at Battersea's brilliant Theatre503.
Occupied has been written by up and coming playwright Carla Grauls and takes place in a disused public toilet in London.
Unspeakably grim, the floors are dirty, there is rubbish everywhere, a sink that isn't plumbed in properly, newspaper clippings adorn the walls - mostly Daily Mail stories about the "threats" of immigration - and lying in the middle of the floor is a man dressed in lurid green tracksuit bottoms and an ill fitting jumper, bound and gagged. At the back of the stage a young woman is playing the accordian.
They are soon joined by a second man, Alex, who it transpires has come over from Romania in search of a better life. Along the way he has hooked up with fellow immigrant Andrea and taken over the toilet to make it their home.
She spends her evenings earning a bit of money as a prostitute and he likes to drink but has not had much success in finding a job.
Driven by a desire to belong, in a genius moment Alex has decided that to be more English he needs the help of an Englishman and it soon becomes obvious that the pair have kidnapped the man on the floor to help.
When the man, Tom Jones, wakes up he is understandably nervous, scared and angry but as the play progresses they all grow used to each other. Tom even teaches Alex how to dance to attract a potential girlfriend and gives him a few choice chat up lines.
As well as the obvious cliches about immigration and the arguments from both sides, the play explores what we call home, the value of "stuff" in our lives and how seemingly having everything may not make you happy.
The set has been well designed - so much so that the audience can almost smell the stench that must surely pervade the atmosphere - and the acting is first class with stand out performances from Joe Marsh as Tom, Josie Dunn as Andrea and Mark Conway as Alex.
Despite the grim setting, the tension that and sadness of the characters, there is plenty of humour to this piece which has been beautifully written, and with a few twists and turns along the way the ending is not in the least bit obvious. A must see.

Occupied runs at Theatre503 in Latchmere Road until Saturday, April 26 April. Tickets £15, £10 concessions and pay what you can on Sundays. Visit or call the box office on 020 7978 7040.

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