12 July 2013

The Shelter at the Riverside (fine drama)

I love the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for its range of performances, its convenience and for the food and drink options. It is on my way home when working Up North so taking in a show on a Friday evening is generally a good idea. It certainly was this week.

The Shelter was staged by LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and was technically free though I gladly donated the usual ticket price in the collection at the end.

Sadly I cannot find any production photos of it anywhere, certainly not on the LAMDA or Riverside websites or Facebook pages, so all I have is this shot of the stage taken from my customary seat in the front row before the performance.

The Shelter is set during the Blitz and the shelter in question is at the Savoy Hotel and is for the exclusive use of the rich patrons while their working class neighbours have to chance it in much flimsier shelters.

At that time the Underground was not open to the public as the Ruling Class (led by Churchill) feared what would happen if the working class were allowed to group there.

A small group of protesters storm the Savoy to use their shelter, and that's the story of the play.

We learn a lot about class attitudes at that time and pivotal in this is the hotel porter who though working class is strongly aligned to the hotel and what it represents. Around him we have his daughter, who is one of the protesters, the firebrand rebel leader, a younger member of staff who is not so wedded to the ways of the rich, a hotel manager who wants to protect the values of Luxury, Comfort and Service, an elderly resident of the hotel, and an officer from the Home Office who wants to ensure that the revolt does not grow.

This was an aspect of the war that I knew nothing about and I found the tale gripping and well told.

The production was accomplished with a small army of LAMDA students acting as hotel staff and moving the pieces of the set around to create the many different scenes.

The Shelter was a fine play and typical of the good things on offer at the Riverside. That's why I keep going there.

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