What does diversity mean to you?
This question is upfront upon entering the Ovalhouse Theatre for the Actors Jam. This night is an integral part of creating change in London by opening up the stage to give minorities a voice. The Actors Jam is a platform for new and innovative work that inspires performers of all backgrounds to harness their voices and tell their stories.
Stories written by the cast show the struggles of growing up. The performances focused on some challenging life circumstances like child abuse, teen pregnancy, and death. By listening to these stories, the audience was able to step into a desolate and shaken world. The performances had strong character elements to each scene; however, the performers often began at such a high intensity that it left them nowhere to go. Carlton Limited in “The Past, The Future & The Present” started his monologue off shouting at the audience in anger. Due to the immediate abruptness, a number of his friends began giggling around the audience. This emotional choice put the audience on edge forcing an uncomfortable laugh. Carlton was on a straight road of anger, rather than a roller coaster of emotion even when his story changed direction. Like Limited, Hannah Osaguona got caught in the same web. Her story was straight to the point with no lead up for the audience to connect. It was anger that led to preaching. These two stories are so important emotionally and could have a strong impact on their audience, but we need more depth in the story and characters—we need to be on a rollercoaster of emotion.
In the mix of intense monologues, there were a few scenes that have been performed in past jams, such as Yazmin Belo and Prince Larweh’s “Changes.” Belo’s snide side comments were a delight and well taken by the audience. Larweh’s attitude playing the “man of the house” was good, but more energy would have enhanced his performance. Another repeat was Jelissa Campbell in “Falling Star.” Campbell’s performance since the winter jam has grown immensely through strong, emotional and genuine character choices. Though it was a surprise to see a repeat of scenes, it was great to see how these pieces have developed over the year.
The Actors Jam has a unique vibe that is joyous and uplifting throughout the night. This energy makes the night really fun and lively and, without it, the night could be another dull GCSE drama class. However, that doesn’t excuse the relaxed in and outgoings of the audience. During the show, audience members were allowed to enter and exit in the middle of the performers’ pieces. This not only distracted the audience from giving the performers full attention, but it also shook up actors on stage. Since the show was so short—first half was 30 minutes including a five minutes speech, plus a fifteen-minute interval, ending with a twenty-five minute second half that included another ten-minute speech—there was no need for people walking in on the five-minute monologues. This show is not ready to be a two-hour show and have an interval if audience members can come and go as they please.
At the end of the show, the audience was left with one final question. What does diversity mean to you?
Diversity: noun, to give respect to all people equally no matter the background we come from.
My understanding of diversity is different than the rest of my fellow audience members. Diversity looks and sounds different to everyone. The Actors Jam opens up real discussion about diversity in our communities, and it provides amazing opportunities for minorities screaming out to be heard. London needs more ground-breaking and dynamic nights like the Actors Jam to build awareness and represent all people from various backgrounds. As the Actors Jam continues to work with new performers and develop new pieces, I look forward to the new and exciting work to come.
Actors Jam: Autumn Showcase
Tickets: £12, £8 concession
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
London SE11 5SW