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Review: Human Jam, at Camden People’s Theatre

Play that tells how HS2 is wreaking devastation just blocks from the theatre, is an utterly convincing journey

17 May, 2019 — By Clair Chapwell

Shamira Turner in Human Jam. Photo: Ali Wright

PART of Camden People’s Theatre’s three-week festival celebrating their 25th anniversary, “a community theatre show about HS2” has a depressing ring to it.

It suggests a parade of feckless politicians commented on by angry actors armed with statistics: worthy, righteous speeches about this ill-conceived vanity project.

Human Jam is not that play. It’s a winning combination of one-man show, community musical and ghost story.

The smiling Brian Logan, CPT’s energetic artistic director, bounces us through HS2’s history in the area and how it is gradually wreaking devastation just blocks from the theatre. But we the audience have heard so many stories of rainforests destroyed, polar icecaps melting and green fields decimated. What Human Jam cleverly focuses on is another aspect of this project – “the biggest exhumation of graves in European history”.

The government has solemnly promised each skeleton its own individual box: a lot of boxes for 63,000 skeletons. Logan is at this point joined by his co-creator Shamira Turner. She appears terrifyingly by candlelight as the ghost of Thomas Spence, England’s first modern socialist, who died in 1814.

Together they take us into a world beyond the grave into the graveyard that lay beneath St James’s Park, next to Euston station, and now bulldozed for HS2, an utterly convincing journey through the lives of some of those buried there.

The final section features local residents, the Community Choir, who sing and speak about HS2’s effects on their lives. Hats off to the CPT for this fine show, well researched and coming from a place of great passion. In the programme is the next HS2 meet­ing, a website for Thomas Spence and HS2 petitions. Comm­unity theatre at its most effective.

Until May 25
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