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Posts Tagged ‘Priyanga Burford’

This play started when it was announced as the first play by Dave Davidson, who’d worked in the security industry for 38 years, with a bunch of testimonials by well-known playwrights connected with the Royal Court. It wasn’t long before Davidson’s cover was blown. Even if you hadn’t known that, you would have at curtain up when we’re told Lucy Kirkwood is about to tell us the true story of the Quilters, kept secret by the Home Office, and why she used a pseudonym.

We first meet Noah & Celeste on one of those Guardian blind dates, a very funny and playful scene. Their relationship progresses and they move in together. Celeste’s nursing career develops, but ex-army Noah struggles and ends up mired in an online world of blurry truth, resistance to technology and conspiracy theories. We’re soon joined by the playwright Lucy Kirkwood, well an actor playing her, who narrates their story like a documentary, more desperately as it progresses. Noah & Celeste, now with a child, go deeper and deeper until it concludes in a mysterious tragedy.

For much of the time it zips along like a thriller, though I thought it was a touch too long at 110 unbroken minutes. Their three-room house revolves, with stage hands in full view, which seemed a perfect match for the piece. Jake Davies and Siena Kelly are terrific as Noah and Celeste, with great chemistry, a totally believable relationship. Priyanga Burford as the playwright becomes more manic and breathless as the story progresses. We even get to meet the playwright, or do we?

It’s a cleverly structured piece that’s expertly staged and performed and I found myself thinking about the issues of surveillance privacy & democracy, secrets and lies, long after I’d left the theatre. Go see This Is Not Who I Am, or is it Rapture, for yourself.

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Some time ago I was involved in a (civil) legal case where two eminent QC’s were pitted against one another in what turned out to be a grudge match. I soon realised the case was more about the competition between them than the facts. That’s one problem with our adversarial legal system. Another problem is that friends and colleagues can advocate against each other; in any other sector this would be prevented lest it lead to collusion. Early in this play it raises another problem in criminal law. No-one represents the victim. The defence represents the accused and the prosecution represents the crown. No-one represents the victim of a crime.

This excellent new play examines the issue of consent in rape cases, and the legal system in general, by juxtaposing a case where two barrister friends are pitted against one another with the infidelities going on in their own lives. The competitiveness issue is much greater in rape cases because it leads to completely unacceptable, bullying behaviour by barristers which is psychologically damaging to victims (with no representation) and leads to fewer cases being brought. In other words, our legal system allows rapists to walk free.

New dad Ed, married to Kitty, prosecutes and friend / colleague Tim is the defence. Victim Gayle (brilliantly played by Heather Craney) is all on her own. Ed exploits her defencelessness to win his case. Whilst this is happening, Ed’s best friend Jake and his wife Rachel (both lawyers) are riding a relationship roller-coaster due to Jake’s infidelity, with Ed and Kitty taking sides. Much later Ed & Kitty ride a similar roller-coaster through Kitty’s more surprising infidelity, with Jake & Rachel involved as if they were pitted against each other in court. Tim and Kitty’s best friend become embroiled. It’s a superbly structured and brilliantly written piece, simply staged with the audience on all sides. 

There’s a real authenticity to the characterisations with superb performances from Ben Chaplin, Anna Maxwell-Martin, Adam James and Priyanga Burford as the two couples and Pip Carter and Daisy Haggard (just about the only sympathetic character) as those drawn into their lives.

Such a good blend of current issues and a personal story, unquestionably a candidate for Best New Play and as fine a set of performances as you’ll see anywhere.

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