Working-class people, the world over, have limited access to power and resources. The access they do have comes from having a skill or attribute that middle-class gatekeepers want for commercial or moral reasons; add in personal, professional and tribal relationships, and it’s a dynamic fraught with anger, pain, sorrow and misunderstanding.
That jumble of emotions and needs is perfectly captured in Kieton Saunders-Browne’s script for Block’d Off, which follows a group of intertwined people as they try to escape poverty, addiction, and violence in London. It’s Dickensian in its scope, scale and outrage at injustice. It’s sympathetic to everyone caught up the structural hell of debt and crushed ambitions. Based on true stories, its best outcome is born out of tragedy.
Camila Segal plays nearly every role, from a Brazilian elderly florist who speaks in Portuguese, translated in projections behind her, to drug dealers mixing their product hoping to earn enough money to move abroad, to a father who wants his daughter to have a better life. Each part of the story has a prop that ends up on a white circle of paper flanking a memorial to a stabbed teenage boy.
Characters and events spill out on top of each other and it quickly becomes impossible to follow. Her passion holds the stage, but there’s too much packed in. She has to go at breakneck speed and not enough attention has been given to making each character recognisable. There are no costume changes, and a couple of accents, but aside from the florist, it goes too fast to remember which accent belongs to which character. There’s a follow up YouTube video with even more details.
Too much isn’t the worst problem a play can have; it’s a strong story, it has some great lines and the direction has some great ideas. The energy and sincerity is impressive. It only needs a longer running time or a lot of cuts to give it the space it deserves.