Posts Tagged ‘George Turvey’

I’m so glad I caught this brilliant new play in its last week in London, before it heads off on tour. Samuel Bailey has written something very original that tackles a subject rarely covered with both empathy and humour that finds you laughing uproariously one minute and devastated the next.

We’re in a young offenders institute with three teenage boys attending parenting classes with trainer Grace. They are all about to become fathers, one already so, and they are learning things like feeding and changing nappies, though not always entirely willingly – it’s all a bit embarrassing, but its something to do. We learn why each of them are there and that the common thread in their backgrounds is parental issues themselves. Though they banter and spar with each other, you can feel a bond forming, as it questions the rehabilitative value of such incarceration, and examines the reasons why they are there in the first place. The friendship that’s forming seems the only light in a hopeless situation. You really do develop an empathy with these boys.

The writing is hugely impressive, particularly as its Bailey’s debut full production. Jasmine Swan’s set oozes authenticity and George Turvey’s staging is finely tuned and sympathetic to the material. Josh Finan is brilliant as livewire motormouth Scouser Cain, a bundle of energy that erupts continually. Ivan Oyik is superb as Riyad, more mature, intelligent and cool. New arrival JonJo, struggling in this new world for him, is played with great restraint and delicacy by Josef Davies. All three are playing below their age but all three characterisations are totally believable. Andrea Hall brings a calmness and positivity to Grace, with occasional flashes of frustration and hopelessness.

I’ve seen a lot of theatre in prisons, and once in a young offender institute. The programme biographies are often written by the residents describing their past and their hopes for the future and this plays like they read. It was great to see a full house standing and cheering such a good play given such a fine production. I do hope it returns to London so that more people can do so.

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This is a hugely impressive playwriting debut by May Sumbwanyambe, set in late nineties Zimbabwe when the government introduced its policy of buying up white owned farms. It proves to be both a balanced debate and a gripping drama.

The objective of the policy was to return land to black Zimbabweans. It was positioned as voluntary purchase, but if the government’s price wasn’t accepted it was progressively reduced, and coincidentally the violence of the ‘war veterans’ on the white farmers escalated. We now know that it played a significant part in the decline of the Zimbabwean economy, turning a productive agriculture sector into an unproductive one.

We’re on the ironically named Independence Farm owned by Guy, his wife Kathleen and daughter Chipo. It’s one of the largest, productive and most beautiful properties in the region. Civil Servant Charles is visiting with the government’s latest offer, soon after their friends and neighbours were violently driven away. It’s a long way home, so Charles is persuaded to stay overnight. As the debate unfolds we learn that Kathleen is worn down, Guy is seriously ill and inclined to protect his daughter from future violent consequences by giving in, whilst she wants to continue the fight.

It’s an impossible situation. The farmer is being punished for the actions of the former colonial power and the civil servant is being asked to implement a policy of retribution by a corrupt government. This is the second play this year which takes on post-independence issues, where the behaviour of the newly independent risks mirroring that of their former oppressors (http://garethjames.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/i-see-you) and it provides a healthy, objective debate.

This excellent play is given a fine production by George Turvey on a simple but evocative set by Max Dorey, with four passionate performances from Peter Guiness, Stefan Adegbola, Beatriz Romilly and Sandra Duncan.

Definitely one to catch.

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