Turfed @ Hackney Downs Studio

Today marks the beginning of one of the most talked about sporting competitions of the last 4 years. As the world gears itself for a summer of heartbreak, triumph and union, it’s fair to say to say that the next month will shape up to be quite an interesting one. Located in the heart and soul of one of the most celebrated footballing nations in the world, Brazil will welcome the world’s media to revel in the pitch side dramas of the tournament, but whilst the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are admired the world over, it may become very easy to forget about the important issues such as homelessness, and the millions of young people that face this as a reality…

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Drawing a comparison between the competitive nature of football and stories of survival on the unforgiving streets of Brazil, London and Tanzania, Renato Rocha‘s Turfed takes on the form of an immersive and experimental experience, challenging the concept of what theatre can be. Greeted by a museum of individual scenarios, the audience are left to wander around the transformed warehouse space, as neon lights baring the words ‘HOME’ and ‘AWAY’ beam with prowess. A bath with red flowers takes on its own space, whilst a performer lays on the ground, rolled up into the foetal position as she is surrounded by a chalk outline of a human being. All of this helps to build up a sense of bewilderment as the audience are left to wander what the world around them will unfold.

A performance fusing spoken word, song and movement, Turfed incorporates the multi-lingual component of the ensemble, with various cast members utilising their mother tongue to speak of their homeless experiences. This concept offers an air of authenticity and truth to the production as it stresses just how prevalent the issue of homelessness is, especially with younger generations. With the issue of homelessness being a problem worldwide, Turfed actively questions why this has become the case, placing the voices of the voiceless into the spotlight. The multiple languages unite the cast in their experiences, however there are moments within the production where it becomes difficult to hear monologues due to projection.

The production beams with stand out visual moments, with thanks to Georgia Lowe‘s striking set design. The pink neon ‘HOME’ and ‘AWAY’ signs unite, as well as part, helping to bring the ensemble together as they perform Freddie Opoku-Addaie‘s authentic choreography. A metaphor for sitting on the sidelines of life, routines shift from the sustained and synchronised movements of the performers leaning backwards and averting their gaze from left to right on the substitute benches, to the abrupt mob like mentality of darting through the audience, walking through the space with the intention of getting to their chosen destination as quickly as possible. This quietly comments on the city mentality of commuters looking out for themselves, walking into each other whilst failing to also acknowledge one another. The green football pitch that unravels before the audience’s very eyes is nothing short of genius. Bundles of clothes thrown onto the pitch cleverly depict the shocking disparity between the wealth and fame of top earning footballers with the ignored and unforgivable living conditions of the homeless. The future of the theatre experience, Turfed questions the issue of homelessness in an unconventional and original manner, however as the performance is 45 minutes in total, it becomes impossible to learn about all of the characters on stage. 3.5/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Turfed is currently showing at the Hackney Downs Studio as part of the LIFT festival until Saturday 21st June. For more information on the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop