Disused Harlow town centre shop transformed into ‘gig theatre’

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A DISUSED shop unit in the Harvey Centre was transformed into a ‘Gig-Theatre’ called the ‘Anti-Valentine’s Day Takeover’ as an alternative way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It featured the award winning Medea Electronica performed by Pecho Mama in a creatively charged, alternative British, 1980’s adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy.

Pecho Mama’s performance was a stunning mix of Greek theatre and electronic music. A pre-recorded dialogue ran through the entire set. It weaved in between the music, encompassing the sounds of everyday life, children, dogs and background noises- which created an ongoing conversation revealing the plot.

The disused shop was re-invented into a pop-up style club setting. The venue included a bar, a projector screen, potted plants, imaginative lighting, seating and a stage.

Mella Faye, the innovator behind Medea Electronica, ‘The space was so cool, and the best thing about the event really was that it brought a Friday night club audience and a theatre going audience together in a completely new space. A lot of people who came up to us afterwards hadn’t seen a show like ours, and probably wouldn’t have come if it was in a traditional theatre space.’

Actress Mella Faye played the main protagonist, a mother of two whose husband left home unannounced. The story tells of the breakdown in communications between the couple and the bewilderment of the children to where their father is.

The music was a powerful affirmation of the mother’s story. The transitions between dialogue and music, were seamless and effective. The talking would often transition into a simple repeating drum motif that began to change the emotions of the scene – building up into a crescendo of sound. The songs were intricate and full of sensitivity – often telling of the mother’s inability to protect her children. The atmospherics of the production were simple yet effective, the use of smoke was used to create a sense of foreboding.

The main themes during the performance were subordination, alienation and destruction. Throughout the set, Medea transforms from the victim to the perpetrator of revenge against her husband – in taking custody rights of the children and ownership of the house. She is faced with only herself to rely on, in a world where everyone is against her.

The final song was a a catharsis- of righteousness and revenge. Medea’s re-ownership of power, the purging of helplessness and victimisation that she had previously experienced, had dissipated into darkness, emphasised by the gradual fading of lights in the venue.

Drummer Sam Cox, said, ‘It was a different atmosphere, and a great opportunity to do something different, it benefitted us to get out of the usual pattern- everyone was loving the vibes. We have previously played a lovely 10 nights in London- which gave us an opportunity to get comfortable, playing a variety of shows, and we look forward to continue touring through summer.’

Mella Faye commented, ‘It was both a brilliant experience and a challenge. Despite the show having a strong ‘gig’ element to it, it’s actually a very vulnerable and intimate performance, portraying a woman’s life falling apart. We hadn’t performed it in a club environment before. We walked into a joyful, noisy space, where everyone was having a great time and in we come with a completely different vibe.

‘During the first ten minutes of the show I considered dropping the story and just playing the songs from the show – there was such a battle going on in the audience between the revellers and those who desperately wanted to listen and invest in the story. I’ve never heard so much heated shushing!! But then something switched. Some people left so they could talk freely, and lots of people came and sat down and listened. In theatre there’s an unwritten contract between performers and audience, that by the end of the show, everyone had come together.

‘I think because of the set up, it was a very mixed reception in the audience, but we had a lot of people come up afterwards, some in tears, saying how moved they’d been. So despite the noise, there was a really profound emotional response for some people. Which is great, and what we hope for.’

 

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George Docking

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