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Posts Tagged ‘Josef Davies’

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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A musical about an adventure playground in a suburb of Bristol in the 70’s doesn’t sound that promising, but its written by master playwright Jack Thorne, the man behind the Harry Potter plays, and directed by a directorial master, Jeremy Herrin. Stephen Warbeck’s score is so unconventional, I’d prefer to call it a musical play – think London Road, but not sung dialogue – and it’s anarchic and playful, with a great big heart. I loved it.

It’s based on Thorne’s dad’s real life experience in the Bristol adventure play movement. Rick, who we’d today call a teaching assistant, tries to recruit young teens to build an adventure playground in a troubled part of town. He works in the local secondary school, he visits parents and he tries to engage the kids. It takes a long while, but he makes it and six kids work with him creating something wild and fun. Even the head teacher approves (it’s on school land formerly earmarked for a maths block). It gets burnt down by vandals, so they rebuild it and take turns guarding it, until one of them is attacked and their world comes tumbling down.

The score is made up of short songs and snatches, played by just three musicians, but they do help tell the story. The set is, well, an adventure playground. The characterisations are terrific, with theee adults playing adults, including Calum Callaghan as gentle, empathetic Rick and six adults playing the kids, with feisty, cheeky Fiz at the centre, played superbly by Erin Doherty (who also impressed in a very different role in Wish List at the Royal Court recently). Fiz’s sister Debbie isn’t involved with the playground; she’s been following in her mother’s footsteps sleeping around, and is now pregnant by one of them, with two of the playground boys candidates! Seyi Omooba follows her auspicious professional debut in Ragtime with another very different but equally impressive performance as tomboy Tilly. Josef Davies is great as the skinhead who isn’t as hard as he looks, as is Enyi Okoronkwo as timid Talc with a crush on Fiz.

Sometimes the accents and kidspeak means words are missed, and there’s a lot of bad language, but that adds to the realism and authenticity. I thought it was original, edgy and captivating. Only one more week to catch it in Kingston.

 

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