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Posts Tagged ‘Anna Reid’

This is a well deserved transfer from the New Diorama Theatre, regularly punching above it’s weight theses days. Ryan Calais Cameron’s highly original and emotionally raw piece tells you so much in two hours about what it’s like to grow up as a black boy in Britain today. He also directs a crack cast of six very talented actors.

The stories of their experiences start aged six and continue through everything life throws at them, sometimes with different perspectives on the same things. Stop and search, absent or abusive fathers, racism, gangs…..but also the flaws of some in their community, notably a lack of respect for women. Their heritage is sometimes a sense of pride but at others a millstone around their neck. It’s extraordinarily visceral, at times tender and moving, at times frustrated and angry.

The staging combines a lot of movement, brilliantly directed by Theophilus O. Bailey-Godson, music and humour, which gives the more serious, moving parts more impact. The ultra bright design (Anna Reid) and lighting (Rory Beaton) use primary colours which change moods as it changes visually. The six actors – Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Kaine Lawrence & Aruna Jalloh – all give virtuoso performances.

It’s rare you learn so much about the lives of others, riding an emotional roller-coaster with them. The young, diverse audience were mesmerised. Thrilling stuff.

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This is an impressive playwriting debut by Alex Mackeith. I don’t know much about education, but it oozed authenticity and seemed to me to present a well researched understanding of some of the issues facing a primary school Head. 

The school in question is trying hard to improve, with an immediate target of a pupil premium award which would open extra-curricular doors that these South London working class kids could never otherwise open. The governors have forced the Head to take an unqualified but bright agency temp to help get the SATS up, but he’s preoccupied with what he enjoys. The Head’s administrator is her retired predecessor’s daughter who’s desperate to qualify as a teacher but has been set back by having to look after her dad. 

The picture it paints is the Head’s struggle to reconcile the need to teach an imposed curriculum, having to follow instructions from the governors that she doesn’t necessarily agree with. the obsession with testing over learning and the expectations of parents (illustrated by a father who expects the school to shoulder all of the responsibility for his sick daughter whilst he shoulders none), all in a world where social media means nothing is secret, not even the her personal problems, going through a divorce. It took a while to take off, but when it did it was riveting.

Anna Reid’s uber-realistic, finely detailed design contributes greatly to the authenticity. There’s a terrific performance from Ann Ogbomo as Head Jo, who has to switch from distress to full emotional control in an instant. Fala Evan-Akingbola conveys her character Lara’s vocational passion and conscientiousness really well and Oliver Dench does well as posh boy Tom who’s rather let them down. Though it’s a small part, Kevin Howarth’s performance as dad David was pivotal in underlining one of the issues. It’s really well staged by Charlie Parham.

Fine new writing at Southwark Playhouse.

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