Tomorrow, everything will change. The safety and comfort of the council estate is in jeopardy, it stands in the way of regeneration, gentrification and progress. Megan Fellows writes and directs Hollnap House in response to The Estate We’re In, a documentary on the BBC about the impending demolition of the West Hendon estate in favour of a luxury housing development. This short play focusses on a residents’ meeting, a brainstorming attempt to save their homes and a guttural reaction to hearing that their lives are to be uprooted in only a few weeks’ time.
Fellows writing is emotional and honest. Using some abstract imagery to simulate the slow decline and destruction of their homes, each resident has their say and removes a block from the makeshift housing structure before leaving. As each person slowly gives up and comes to accept their fate, the structure becomes more dilapidated, unloved and in further disrepair. A well intentioned artistic device that could have more impact if the block eventually crumbled before the eyes of the audience, an indication of the hopelessness that the residents are railing against but ultimately that consumes them.
The residents themselves display a variety of attitudes and personalities – there is a sense of community in this meeting despite the arguments and tantrums. As the young mother, Charlotte Chinn is the most relatable of the characters – with no idea about how to explain the whole thing to her kids, she becomes slowly more agitated as the dialogue progresses. Her final breakdown loses impact on a stage that is bigger than the story, a serendipitous visual metaphor of the residents’ fruitless plight against the all-consuming corporate onslaught of progress.
As the grandmother, Veronica Lewis gives the performance of note here. Switching from worried to angry, she encompasses the human impact that a cold-hearted business decision has on real people, stripping her of the security that her flat provides, a place she has called home for over 50 years.
Set over only 10 minutes, Fellows writes a short play that feels whole and fulfilling, a story that conveys its point in this short time frame. A worthy second place.
Writer-Director: Megan Fellows
Producer: Faith Drama Productions as part of Theatre Madness Festival 2016
Cast: Charlotte Chinn, William Frazer, Veronica Lewis, Mark Ota, Luke Wilson
Festival on 10 September 2016