Albion: Chris Thompson
London W12 8LJ
Mon-Sat 7.30pm; mats Wed, Sat 2.30pm
Audio described perf: Oct 11, 2.30pm
Captioned perf: Oct 3, 7.30pm
Runs: 2hrs 30 mins incl 15 min interval. To 25 10 14
TICKETS: 020 8743 5050
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Sept 19, 2014:
Not pretty, but a blistering play
To misquote a phrase, wrapping yourself in the flag is perhaps the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Chris Thompson’s blisteringly topical new play, Albion, comes at a crucial time in the history of Britain and especially we `English’. Who do we think we are anymore?
It’s karaoke night in the Albion, an East End pub, typically seen as the home of white working class disaffection. More media cliché perhaps than reality, this is where Thompson’s cliché ends.
Because, although Albion carries echoes of other pub white working class dramas (Roy Williams’ Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads), British fascism (David Edgar’s Destiny) or laughter as weapon (Trevor Griffiths’ Comedians), Thompson uses karaoke to develop the narrative plausibly and ironically, allowing the audience a moment of familiarity before hitting it with views you’re unlikely to hear much on mainstream television.
Thompson is consciously exploring the unacceptable – white working-class (and blue-collar) supporters of the English Defence League (here called the EPA). It’s not nice, it’s not pretty but my goodness, with songs covering every popular variety from ballad (Delilah) to disco (It’s Raining Men – the latter sung dynamically by Natalie Casey’s disaffected social worker, scapegoated she believes, for keeping too much to the `politically correct’ agenda and not protecting a young charge from sexual grooming and abuse), it also makes for a terrific feel-good as well as discomfiting evening.
Add in an English-Pakistani gay couple finally divided by their political and cultural loyalties and our social worker triumphing through the appropriation of more acceptable language (the value of diversity, anybody?) to become mayor of Tower Hamlets and you have a sure-fit hit on your hands.
Thompson’s great achievement – and Ria Parry’s super-sharp production gives it every chance to shine and prickle – is to portray right-wing prejudice as the consequence of circumstance. Thompson was himself once a social worker- and it shows. His ability to show the human face of bigotry and alienation is as refreshing as Tony Clay’s Jayson, younger brother to Steve John Shepherd’s initially frightening EPA leader, Paul, is troublingly inadequate, with karaoke the only thing in his life. Enjoy but take note…
Jayson Ryman: Tony Clay
Paul Ryman: Steve John Shepherd
Kyle Johnson: Delroy Atkinson
Christine Wolfe: Natalie Casey
Presenter, Manager and others: Paul Ham
Poppy, Leanne and others: Nicola Harrison
Aashir Ahmad: Dharmesh Patel
Director: Ria Parry
Designer: James Button
Lighting Designer: David W. Kidd
Arranger & Sound Designer: Dave Price
Video Designer: Duncan McLean
Vocal Coach: Mary King
Assistant Director: Roy Alexander Weise
Casting Director: Charlotte Sutton
Fight Director: Chris Main
See www.bushtheatre.co.uk for full details
World premiere of Albion at Bush Theatre, London, Sept 12, 2014