Electric review at the Rio Cinema Dalston – ‘strikes some lovely notes’

Tyrell Jeremiah in Electric at the Rio Cinema, Dalston. Photo: Michael Shelford Tyrell Jeremiah in Electric at the Rio Cinema, Dalston. Photo: Michael Shelford

In the basement of Dalston’s iconic Art Deco Rio Cinema, a dedicated ensemble of first-time actors populate an immersive and transient environment, which is both intriguing and delightful.

As audience members move from room to room, the history of the cinema is explored through several interwoven narrative threads, jumping from modern threats of closure, its earlier days as a recording studio, racial prejudice seen during wartime London, a strip club and its original inception as a silent picture house.

Andrew Day’s script strikes some lovely notes as it unpacks the cultural relationship between cinema and soulfulness, while questioning how modern British society seems to have swapped Sunday church for a new kind of religion involving Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford and the silver screen.

A stunning production design by Ellan Parry embodies these themes through a sense of decay and decline, while using video and light in simple but effective ways.

Multiple standout performances including Henrietta Imoreh and Mohammed Shafick shine in the more tender and quiet moments, but are also slightly let down by a skewed emotional energy as the piece reaches its climax – the acoustics of the space are not great for shouting matches, and feel a little misplaced.

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An ambitious production blending silver screen iconography with Dalston’s real-life history which takes its audience on a satisfying journey