It feels so good seeing the way theatre becomes more and more accessible in London. Last month, I had an absolute pleasure watching “The Little Big Things,” which, for the first time in the West End, featured wheelchair users as leads in a show. Can you imagine that @Soho Place is the only venue that could accommodate a cast on wheelchairs? As the only venue in town? Kind of ridiculous. But never mind. I’m glad this finally happened. Now, a new, original show takes accessibility in theatre to another dimension, featuring a neurodivergent cast in a manner that sets a remarkable benchmark in London theatre.
“Imposter 22” is a ray of sunshine for a theatre experience that’s as diverse as a mixed bag of Skittles (of the sour, sarcastic type, you know) and isn’t afraid to break the mould and dance to its neurodivergent tune.
Cast Redefined: Inclusivity Beyond the Spotlight
“Imposter 22” showcases a cast of neurodivergent artists and supports them in a way I’ve never witnessed before. As they sit, stand, fidget, and write on pieces of paper during the performance, they still remain on stage throughout the entire show — a formidable feat. The stage is set in a way to make these 2 hours as comfortable for the cast as possible.
Stage managers aren’t concealed in the shadows; they actively engage, walking on stage to adjust set pieces, pass water bottles, or aid with text delivery. While relaxed performances and other accessibility measures for audiences have been established for some time, it appears we’re finally taking the necessary step to make theatre accessible for performers and creators on their terms, enhancing their enjoyment of the creative process.
A Whodunnit with a Twist: Deconstructing the Norms
“Imposter 22” at its core is a murder mystery whodunnit, but it defies conventions. It’s not merely about a final twist; it’s a deconstructed narrative that breaks the fourth wall from the outset, directly engaging the audience. The story doesn’t unfold in a linear, classic crime mystery style; instead, it embraces digressions (huge ones at times!), spotlighting characters, delving into backstories, exploring inner thoughts, and providing ample space for monologues.
If you’re unaccustomed to a complex tapestry of thoughts thrown at you, be prepared to focus intently. I have to admit, this type of story was a bit of a challenge to follow, but I was aware that the show was written and prepared by neurodivergent creatives and took a good 5 year-period to finally see the spotlight – so I was expecting something a bit unusual anyways.
Humour with a Twist: Raising a Sardonic Eyebrow
What sets “Imposter 22” apart is its clever approach to humour. Playwright Molly Davies sidesteps the clichés of “normal” individuals being inspired by vivacious neurodivergent characters and instead crafts moments filled with spicy jokes, biting sass, and even a hilariously steamy yet ultimately failed sexual escapade.
Transforming Sets: A Visual Feast
The stage design deserves a special mention. What initially appears as a multi-layered yet straightforward setup with chairs, microphones, and high-quality projections in the first act magically transforms into a mysterious island (quite the wild transformation for a Battersea Park location). The set is replete with lush greenery, fake grass, and the pièce de résistance—a gigantic pink pedalo shaped like a flamingo.
Standout Performances: A Cast to Remember
The standout performances of the night were truly memorable. Stephanie Newman, who portrayed Rose, exuded an incredible blend of sass and sarcasm. Jamael Westman, known for his role as Hamilton in the West End, portrayed Danny with effortless charm. His heartfelt hug with Dayo Koleosho in London bus 22 was a heartwarming highlight.
Housni Hassan’s portrayal of Kev was a burst of energy with fantastic stage movement, perfectly matched to his character. On the night I attended, Anna Constable stepped in as Blossom, reading from the script with wit and finesse despite the obvious challenge. A last minute change of cast member is never easy, but Anna absolutely nailed the role.
Illuminating Moments and Uncharted Depths
“Imposter 22” both amazed and challenged me. I relished getting to know the characters and following their stories, but at times, when the narrative meandered a bit too far, my mind had to play catch-up. I also felt that the hints of Joe’s depression (who called the Samaritans in his “last” call) were addressed more cursorily than explored in the depth they deserved.
This show is accessible to everyone, with visual guides available before entry, and every performance designated as relaxed. You can get up, express your response to the show in any way you feel comfortable, and let your unique self shine – it’s like a theatre dance floor for your soul (and no, there’s no audience participation so if you’re not a fan of being dragged on stage, this is a great choice).
I received the ticket to see the show in exchange for honest review.
A Royal Court Theatre and Access All Areas co-production
The Royal Court Theatre
23 Sept – 14 Oct 2023