Posts Tagged ‘Sacha Wares’

I found this piece a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. Above all, it made me angry and upset at the sort of society we’ve become, one where some young people feel justifiably hopeless about the future. Fortunately, it has its lighter moments, and staging and performances to admire greatly.

Director Sacha Wares and designer Miriam Buether have created another of their extraordinary immersive environments. The latter is clearly going through her travelator phase as, like The Trial at the Young Vic last year, that’s what we have here, but this time snaking through the theatre like a flat, slow, fairground ride. It takes 17-year-old Liam, and us, through his life in London (well, his home in the southern suburbs and ‘up west’). We visit doctor’s surgeries and the offices of various government agencies. We’re outside shops & nightclubs and at supermarket checkouts, bus stops & parks, roadworks & bus shelters and a whole load of front doors pass before our eyes. Characters sit without seats (think of those silent statues in Covent Garden) and move on and off the travellator and around the space within.

Almost every social issue we face in broken Britain is touched upon and I found myself welling up at the plight of some of the characters, but mostly young Liam – broke, lonely, nowhere to go, no purpose in life. The performance of young Frankie Fox, in his professional stage debut as Liam, was as extraordinary as the staging, and there were more than twenty other talented actors in supporting roles, including another seven professional stage debuts.

Leo Butler’s 70-minute play covers a lot of ground and packs a real punch. I so wish Cameron and Osborne could be forced to sit in the front row and watch this slice of austerity Britain unfold before their very eyes. This is urgent and important theatre. Go.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that to say anything about this play would be to spoil it, and its too good to spoil. It certainly lives up to its title. Think bird-watching, Big Brother, Benefits Street and paint-balling.

What I will say is that playwright Mike Bartlett continues to be the master of the miniature with maximum impact. Like Cock and Bull before it, he says more and provokes you more than most playwrights do in twice the time. I found this one seriously disturbing, not at all implausible and quite possibly prophetic. We’ll have to wait and see.

Director Sachha Wares and designer Miriam Buether have created another of their extraordinary immersive environments in painstaking detail. My mouth fell open in disbelief as soon I entered the space. As we used to say in the swinging sixties, it blew my mind.

It was only an hour of my life but it has invaded much of the subsequent 36 hours. Not everyone will agree – people left the theatre expressing clearly differing views – but for me it has to be seen. It’s why I go to the theatre. Creativity. Challenge. Drama.

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The Royal Court main house has been turned into a boxing club, complete with ring, which later becomes a  boxing venue. Designer Miriam Buether is no stranger to such transformations (Relocated, My Child & Cock also here at the Royal Court) and this is just as impressive. It completely transports you to this (for me at least) alien world and in this case, back in time 20 – 25 years.

Roy Williams is just about the best playwright working in the UK today because he writes unpretentious plays which tell personal stories that illuminate and help us understand complex aspects of our society. This particular play shows us what it’s like to grow up black in 80’s Britain through the story of two boys whose lives diverge and later re-connect. Setting it in Thatcher’s Britain allows us to revisit a period of war (the Falklands), industrial strife and racism and wonder if anything has really changed. We’re still fighting wars, we seem to be heading for a new period of  strife and the spectre of racism has hardly gone away, just buried.

It was a captivating 90 minutes sitting front row ringside with more testosterone in the room than all the other London theatres added together. Sacha Wares’ staging, including amazingly real fight sequences, makes it all so totally believable that you wince at the racist comments and jump when a punch lands.

There isn’t a fault in the casting. Nigel Lindsay brings out all of the contradictions that inhabit trainer Charlie. Trevor Laird as Leon’s dad and Gary Beadle as Troy’s American give great cameos. Sarah Ridgeway really makes us feel for Becky, caught between her dad and Leon. Above all it’s the three boxing boys – Jason Maza, Anthony Welsh and Daniel Kaluuya – who bring the play alive with extraordinary presence and energy; they are mesmerizing.

Yet another triumph for Roy Williams and the Royal Court.

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