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  • Published in Arts Review

Theatre collective 'Blockseventeen' have produced an elegant play about alienation and the dangers of romanticising the past. Elly Badcock and Ben Metters review the piece

Alice and Victor is the sepia toned tale of star crossed lovers sick of their respective worlds, desperately trying to escape the realities of their existences.

Alice is a hipster Miss Havisham, trapped in a world that's full of a 'big brash sireny metallic, electronic noise that gets inside you and rattles'. She holds a rose tinted view of the past; a society where 'women were pure and men were strong'; one with rules that act as a buffer to the blur and confusion of an increasingly fast paced society.

Fashionable Victor is constantly seeking solace from the brashness of a City within his city that is so alien to his own. Bloodied from a fight with abrasive stockbrokers, he tumbles into Alice's fossiled sanctuary - a dilapidated ballroom, on the last night before it is razed to the ground.

The play at its heart is a tale of alienation and increasing despair at the vulgarities of modern capitalism. A lost lonely woman retreating into the past, and a frustrated young man trapped in the perpetual synthesised beat of the present - both turn to fantasy to help them stumble through a world that has little time for them. As Alice says, 'I find myself lost and there's no one to look for me'.

Watching Alice and Victor, we couldn't help but think about the modern trend for vintage that obsesses a generation of Levi-clad, Instagram-hooked young people. In Alice's world, this retreat into the past releases her of the need to confront the real world; is this the case for our generation, too? It seems that looking backwards, to a 'simpler time', allows us to articulate our frustrations with capitalism without having to engage in the struggle for a better tomorrow. If we can solve our problems with a return to traditional values - monogamous marriage and Cath Kidston aprons, Polaroids and grazed knees - then we lose all impetus to fashion the kind of world we can actually find ourselves in.

The past, of course, is never as warm and homely a place as we imagine. The warmth of scratched sepia photos, and letters frayed around the edges, hides a myriad of sins. Women, black people and the LGBT community faced lifelong hell for transgressing the strict moral codes of the day. This is highlighted in the play by 'genuine fakes' Stanley and Gerry, who show through a heartwarming finale that their lost world cannot provide the solace Alice seeks.

However, Victor's response of fights, dubstep and, one assumes, copious amounts of drugs, is no closer to the future than Alice's relentless retrospective. He dances out the frustrations of a world seeped in injustice, greed and excess, as hundreds of thousands do every Friday night. Again, it provides a temporary retrieve - but creating small, individual spaces to escape the rest of the world can only take us so far.

Alice and Victor leaves the viewer with a deeper understanding of the alienated, post-Thatcherite generation - and a flickering hope that its protagonists can create a world they can both call home.

BLOCKseventeen are holding a free performance of Alice and Victor this Saturday 8th September at the Yard, Hackney Wick.

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