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Posts Tagged ‘Rosa Maggiora’

This play is the second in a planned trilogy by Ishy Din about the male immigrant experience. For some reason I missed the well-received first part, Snookered, about Asian men born here, when it visited the Bush Theatre in 2012. This is about Asian men who came here, and I’m very glad I caught this one.

It’s set in Teeside in the days between Margaret Thatcher’s death and her state funeral in 2013. Raf and Mansha used to work in a factory making steel bridges. After it closed, Raf bought a minicab firm and Mansha runs it for him. Mansha’s son-in-law Sully is a driver, Raf’s son Shazad is working there during his University holidays and Raf has recruited Sameena, their first female driver, a feisty ex-con who Sully knows and likes but Mansha doesn’t trust.

Raf decides to sell up, but Mansa doesn’t like the sound of his new boss, so he puts together an offer by remortgaging, bringing in Sully with his recently deceased dad’s industrial disease compensation, but it isn’t enough – until Sameena becomes an unlikely third partner using her own inheritance. Raf demands cash and no paperwork, to avoid the taxman, and leaves them with the business books. Their enthusiasm wanes when the books are examined and they find out the truth about what they’ve bought. It goes from bad to worse when they discover who’s backing Sameena, and why. Friends and relatives are betrayed, generations clash and hands are forced.

The first half set-up was a bit slow, but the second half is terrific as it becomes a multi-layered, cleverly plotted piece that takes its hold on you, helped by six excellent performances and a realistic minicab office setting by Rosa Maggiora. A definite recommendation from me.

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This is a quirky sixteen-year-old Off-Broadway musical by Kirsten Childs, with quite a mouthful of a title, getting its European premiere at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It tells the story of Viveca aka Bubbly as she navigates life from her 60’s childhood in Southern California to 90’s maturity in New York City, weaving in significant black history events along the way.

She’s a vivacious black middle-class kid who is first awakened to the real world by the Klu Klux Klan killing of four black girls just like her in a chapel in Birmingham, Alabama. Racism (and sexism) are an everyday occurrence. During her school years there’s both pressure and temptation to ‘go white’ to fit in; she even chooses her white doll Chitty Chatty over her black doll. In fact, that doesn’t change for a long time. Her relationship with childhood sweetheart Gregory never really goes anywhere, though he turns up again later.

Moving to NYC, after a period as an unsuccessful secretary she takes dance lessons and tries to break into musical theatre, with some success – enough for her to be able to break free and set up her own dance academy. The original score is serviceable rather than distinguished. I was expecting it to change with the period, perhaps from Motown to Disco to 80’s electro mush(!), but it didn’t – a missed opportunity, I thought. I also thought there was a bit too much time given over to childhood over adulthood.

Rosa Maggiora’s design is excellent, a stage full of boxes in which Tim Reid’s superb projections appear, and her period costumes are terrific. Josette Bushell-Mingo’s direction and Mykal Rand’s choreography are sprightly and chirpy and, well, bubbly. Sophia Mackay and Karis Jack were both great as older and young Viveca respectively. It seemed like more than ten on stage and there was a lot of doubling and tripling, one even quadrupling, with a stand-out comic performance from Ashley Joseph, who brought the house down in the second half as Lucas.

I didn’t engage with it as much as I thought I might. The quirkiness became a bit relentless for me, trying a bit too hard and sometimes seeming forced as a result. In the end, I felt the production and performances were better than the material and I’m not sure it resonates as much over here, in 2017, but I’m not the right person to judge that.

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