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Posts Tagged ‘Hampstead Downstairs’

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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