EEach year, new immersive shows attempt to guide a large audience around a story. Few of them manage to create something with as much raspy energy and emotional integrity as Redemption. Done by the big house, a venue that nurtures the talent of young adults who have spent time in the care system, this immediate and ambitious walking performance is a powerful journey of hope, sorrow and music.
Renaya Dennis is exceptional as our protagonist and narrator, Maz, who escaped a volatile situation in her nursing home. Vulnerable and distant, Dennis is angular and tough in the face of the gentleness of Tayo (Shaquille Jack), a shy boy with an angelic voice that Maz meets in a recording studio. At first, it’s awkward when they’re left alone, but the music helps them find their way together, its grime blending beautifully with its soul.
The music that runs through the entire room (text and lyrics by James Meteyard, music by The Last Skeptik) has such a range, from pumping club sets to a sweet melody sung on a bed, a person crying in the lap of a other.
As tensions rise and the characters exit, we follow them through the sprawling building of dusty bricks, chipboard, hanging wires, and graffiti walls. Design (Zoe Hurwitz) cleverly uses the already atmospheric space, creating a music studio downstairs, to a littered attic lounge where Call of Duty plays, then back down in the neon glow of a nightclub.
The queues for the narrow stairs can be awkward and slow, but the actors hold the moment, waiting for us all to get in. Tonight, the director and director of La Grande Maison, Maggie Norris, beckons us in, while her golden retriever drops. and waits to be introduced in the next scene.
As we take root for Maz, who is starting to carve out a place for himself in the music scene, everything threatens to give way under her. Richly told by a cast that understands firsthand the heart of the story they tell, Redemption ends on a note of hope. But the rumble below is a reminder of where power doesn’t reside; talent is not enough if you don’t have the money, the security, the second chances.