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Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Gordon’

This fascinating and rather timely play is actress Natasha Gordon’s hugely impressive playwriting debut. It seems like a breath of fresh air at the NT; the Dorfman was positively buzzing.

Single mother (and grandmother) Lorraine gave up her job to nurse her mother Gloria through her last days with cancer. Gloria came to Britain from Jamaica in the Windrush days (hence its timeliness on the 70th anniversary, even more timely given recent revelations). Lorraine’s brother Robert, his white wife Sophie, Lorraine’s daughter Anita and Gloria’s cousin Maggie and her husband Vince visit during her final hours, and when she dies jointly plan the traditional Jamaican Nine Night ritual and wake. Conflicts emerge between Lorraine and Robert, and both of them and Maggie, and Sophie has a revelation of her own. When step-sister Tanya, left behind by Gloria in Jamaica with her grandmother, arrives more skeletons emerge and the spirituality of the ritual ramps up.

It was clear that those of shared heritage understood more and got more out of it than me, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a fine play and superb performances, chief amongst them Franc Ashman, who is outstanding as put-upon Lorraine, riding an emotional roller-coaster, and Cecilia Noble’s extraordinary creation that is Aunt Maggie. Rajha Shakiry’s uber-realistic London home and Roy Alexander Weise’s assured direction serve the play well.

I might have missed some cultural references (tip – read the programme in advance) and some dialogue from the most heavily accented characters (and the sustained audience laughter), but I still had a rewarding couple of hours of first class theatre.

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I caught the last performance of this new American play by J C Lee and was very glad I did. The third piece of good writing in nine days.

Luce is a seventeen year old brought from a war torn African country and adopted by an American couple when he was seven. He’s a popular, bright, sporty kid who’s heading for university with a fat scholarship, until he submits a controversial essay which prompts a teacher to search his locker. She decides to share her concern about radicalisation with his mother, who worships him, rather than the college principal. The search for the truth becomes a trail of clumsiness, incompetence and conflict.

What I liked about the writing is its realism and honesty, probing and challenging perceptions and preconceptions. Though its inconclusive, the debate is deftly handled in Simon Dormandy’s simple staging, with just a table and some chairs as props and actors sitting on the sides when not playing, watching the action but not expressionless.

The performances are all outstanding. I was hugely impressed by Martins Imhangbe as Luce, who switches mood and attitude instantaneously. Mel Giedroyc, making a rare foray into theatre, was also impressive as mom Amy – it was easier to identify with her character when she was serious as the funnier moments felt like Mel. Natasha Gordon’s teacher Harriet, Elizabeth Tan’s fellow pupil Stephanie and Nigel Whitmey’s dad Peter were all well drawn characterisations and performances too.

J C Lee has apparently become rather successful as a TV and film writer, but I do hope we haven’t lost him to theatre, as based on this he’s too good to lose.

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