Posts Tagged ‘Gillian Slovo’

Who says theatre doesn’t confront the issues of the day? For the second evening running, it is – this time a verbatim piece about the radicalisation of young people. I feel privileged to live in a country where I can see such things.

Gillian Slovo interviewed people affected by or involved in this issue, most notably school children in Tower Hamlets and mothers in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, much in the news since the recent Paris and Brussels incidents. Add to this political & religious leaders, military & police figures and others in the community and you have a lot of perspectives to present in ninety minutes. What comes out is a pretty objective look at the issue. I found the testimony of the school children particularly revelatory and the Belgian mothers deeply moving. It certainly helps you understand how we’ve got to where we have, but sadly not to see any solutions.

Director Nicholas Kent, the master of such work, provides a simple staging with just a few chairs in front of a highly effective video wall by Duncan McClean. A cast of thirteen convey the words and feelings of some eighteen people. I found it more cerebral than the more emotional Boy the evening before, partly because of the style of this type of theatre and partly because of the complexity of the issues, but the mothers still got to me in the end.

Nicholas Kent’s track record in using theatre to show us what others don’t and can’t is second to none and it’s great to have him back and great that the National has given him a high profile stage to put such work on. Long may it continue.


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The Tricycle Theatre continues its pre-eminence as THE theatre which tackles current events and issues by staging objective and gripping evidence-based ‘enquiries’ and reviews.

Like other verbatim theatre, Gillian Slovo’s piece only uses the words of ‘stakeholders’ in the August 2011 riots – victims, rioters, the police, members of the communities in which they occurred and politicians. It takes no sides – indeed, it presents all sides – and you’re left to make up your own mind (or not). This might all sound very worthy and earnest, but it’s actually as gripping and thought-provoking as you want good drama to be – except it’s reality rather than fiction.

Director Nicolas Kent is the master of this type of theatre, and this staging (sadly, his last as Artistic Director of this venue) is as good as his best. Polly Sullivan has designed a simple circular space which allows the various protagonists to tell their stories amongst looted items and detritus, with the corrugated side walls actually on fire during the riots! It’s the evidence that counts, and the staging allows it to be presented so that you listen to it.

Fourteen actors play the 30 parts, sometimes unrecognisable from their last role to the next one. Dona Croll’s transformation from Diane Abbott to Camila Batmanghelidjh on the turn of a swivel chair is a highlight (!), Tim Woodward moves from Chief Inspector to Judge to Iain Duncan-Smith and Rupert Holliday Evans pulls off an equally impressive trio of Michael Gove, Simon Hughes and Sir Hugh Orde. Okezie Morro and Selva Rasalingam paint more personal portraits of people we don’t know but who were in different ways at the heart of the events in Tottenham.

It’s a privilege to live in a city where theatre can react more quickly and more objectively than ‘the establishment’ to what’s happening in our society. When they staged some of the ‘enquiries’ they were invited to perform in parliament and when they presented their history of Afghanistan they were asked to put on the plays in the Pentagon by a US General who wished the military had seen it before the invasion as it would have helped them understand what they were dealing with! This is more close to home, more current and therefore more vital. It has finished at the Tricycle but can be seen in Tottenham in January. If you weren’t in Kilburn, you should be there.

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