Made in China’s Get Stuff Break Free delves a little deeper than you’d first expect. In line with the National Theatre’s current Inside Out program, this performance breaks free of the brutalist building, resurrecting itself on an open air stage tucked high up on the roof.
The performance itself is somewhat overshadowed by the scenery – a panoramic backdrop of the Thames as the city fades from day to twinkly night is difficult to contend with. Nevertheless it makes for interesting viewing.
Four oddball characters referring to themselves only as “The Group” relay memories skimming London’s decades, retracing the city's history of civil unrest from the Gordon Riots to last year’s looting. Similar to Made in China’s previous conquests, this show is punctuated with excess; exorbitant greed and chaos is characterised by slapstick sequences in which cucumber sandwiches and jugs of Pimms are aggressively devoured, parabling their version of a covetous society deep within the throes of consumerism.
Between these frenzied moments the four offer steadied soliloquies under spotlight and it’s here that the cracks of "A Group" losing itself in the momentum of change begin to show. Sporadic handfuls of confetti and sparklers throughout the performance reflect the fleeting hopes of a dismantling movement and, as the sky fades to a burgundy dusk, the mood takes a sinister turn as one by one they exit the stage.
Don’t be fooled by the quaint makeshift staircase, colourful fairy lights and firework finale: this show will leave you quietly contemplating the surrounding city.
Made In China's Get Stuff Break Free runs at the National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 until 4 July.
by Jess Jones-Berney. Photos by Ludo Des Cognets.