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Posts Tagged ‘Delroy Atkinson’

I’m very fond of the work of playwright Roy Williams. He’s one of the very few writing about contemporary urban life, black lives in particular. This is my eleventh play of his and he hasn’t let me down yet, and he doesn’t here.

The Firm were a gang of late-forties / early-fifties small time crooks in South East London. They’re reuniting to celebrate Shaun’s release from prison at Gus’ new bar on the eve of its grand opening. Selwyn brings young lad Fraser with him, allegedly a relative, a member of one of a new generation of very different gangs. Leslie and Trent have encountered Fraser before – he’s been preparing the way, and now he’s there with a proposition, but it gets lost in a deluge of skeletons and ghosts as truths are revealed, myths debunked and regrets surface.

Williams writes such authentic, ripe dialogue and after a slow start, the story unfolds and unravels with great pace. I liked the way it exposed the very different personalities and their motivations, how they’ve gone their different ways and how it contrasts the two generations. Though history is likely to repeat itself, it will be a very different one.

It’s superbly performed by a crack cast – Clinton Blake, Jay Simpson, Delroy Atkinson & Clarence Smith as the members of the old Firm and Simon Coombs as young Fraser. The Finborough’s resident designer Alex Marker has got his hands on a bigger budget and delivered an excellent realistic new bar. Denis Lawson’s staging is very visceral, not afraid to let its hair down as it exposes shocking truths.

This made me wonder why I don’t go to Hampstead Downstairs, a low profile, intimate space, more often. Definitely worth a visit.

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Chris Thompson has written a very timely play about the far right, even more timely post-Clacton (though I suspect they didn’t know this when it was commissioned / written). The subject and issues are ripe for dramatisation.

The Albion is a traditional boozer in Tower Hamlets which has traditional British karaoke (!)  five nights a week. Landlord Paul also happens to be the leader of the EPA, a fictional party rather like the BNP. His sister Poppy is fighting with the British forces in the Middle-East. His sister’s boyfriend Kyle is his EPA deputy and he’s black. His brother Jason is also an EPA activist and he’s gay. Jason has started a relationship with a gay Muslim he met on gaydar. Social worker Christine joins them as a sort of spin doctor, though perhaps with a hidden agenda, when she’s scapegoated and fired over failing to deal with a grooming case (some step relative of Paul’s that wasn’t entirely clear to me) in fear of accusations of racism. It doesn’t take long before he EPA is disintegrating.

The Bush IS the Albion, complete with bar, pool table and karaoke stage (design by James Button). Almost every scene takes place in the pub during a karaoke evening, with characters performing songs, the lyrics of which are often an integral part of the narrative. This is a clever and original idea but it’s overplayed. There’s way too much karaoke, including a fair number of complete songs. It lengthens the play and robs it of depth and subtlety. Frankly, I don’t want to sit in a theatre watching someone sing Delilah poorly to a backing track (sorry, Delroy Atkinson). It covers almost every issue that has led to the growth of, and is now leading to the success of, the far right but it does so too superficially. To compound the issue, the play has an embarrassingly excruciating ending.

I admire the intention, I like the originality of the structure, it’s well staged by Ria Parry and I thought all of the performances were very good, but it’s heavy-handed and it didn’t entirely work for me I’m afraid.

 

 

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