Firstly, I have never seen a show where so many plastic seats get to take centre stage, to such unusual effect! When the opening scene of a performance features a parade of empty chairs, you know that this is not a play in the traditional mould. The Capital is an extraordinary piece of visual theatre, devised and delivered with great panache by
Originally inspired by conversations with leading economists at the University of Warwick, the Capital sets out to explore the twin themes of financial and social inequality by portraying the experiences of rich and poor sharing the same city streets, while living very different lives. The audience sees snapshots of characters from all walks of life, struggling to keep up with the pace of everyday living, played out on actual conveyor belts. The cast comprises only 5 actors, but they each provide a masterclass in communicating relationships and emotions, simply using their bodies, sign language and mime, as they walk past, towards, or alongside one another. The choreography is flawless, as the actors glide along the travelators at varying speeds, representing a vast galaxy of characters, each separated from the other by economic and social inequalities: the homeless drift along, shrouded in piles of blankets, whilst a nanny hands over a baby to her mother at the end of a working day; an immigrant towing a suitcase, painfully alone among the hurrying city workers.
All credit to the cast members (and not forgetting the stage manager too), who operate at an incredible pace, with multiple changes of costume and an endless assortment of props – from ladders to lamp stands, and desks to dustbins. Some of the characters are reprised, but others (and there are roughly a hundred of them) are just glimpsed in passing, as if from a train or a bus. The plain backdrop to all this relentless activity changes colour from blue to pink to orange, allowing stunning shadow effects (those plastic chairs again!), and there are occasional flashes of colour picked out on the walkways, amidst the general drabness of city living: a scarlet beret, a glittering jacket, a bright red briefcase. The attention to detail is remarkable.
It’s an absorbing performance, despite there being no specific storyline, and this is mainly because you don’t know what to expect next, which is perhaps the whole point – anything can happen in the city, and quite often does.