by Barrie Keeffe.
Former Central St Martin’s School of Art 111 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0EB To 7 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm (sold out 7 Nov 7.30pm).
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 October.
Sexism, racism, youth unemployment – back come the seventies with a powerful visceral grip.
In the mid-1970s Barrie Keeffe wrote six short plays which became two trilogies, Gimme Shelter and Barbarians. This opens with Killing Time, about three young men scouting cars to be stolen to order as a way to make some money (changes in cash values are starkly evident) while fending-off the reality they’re factory fodder, for “a bints job” at best.
Abide With Me reveals these three lads from Lewisham as Manchester United fans, who somehow afford the fare to United’s home games. At the 1976 Cup Final they find the reinforced metal walls of Wembley shut them out, commercial considerations governing ticket availability.
Both trilogies tail-off in the third episode, final plays bound to what’s gone before. In the City’s set at the Notting Hill Carnival, with an arbitrary meeting instead of a group activity, while racism and Jan’s fear of Belfast snipers suggest themes being assembled in a plotless piece.
In its day Barbarians could seem an identikit radical response to a troubled society. But it forms a penetrating analysis of the angry frustration that spawned Punk (the Sex Pistols first played in public in this building in November 1975 – one Pistol also being an art student).
Catching the period’s mood, it’s more than a period piece, certainly in Tooting Arts Club’s production, which began in the Borough that seeks to align SW17 with the swankier SW19. Using three rooms, mixing audience and action as the characters roam the streets, then having audience spectating outside Wembley and like eavesdroppers round the final night-time meeting, director Bill Buckhurst injects near constant energy, while allowing space for moments to show individuals’ reflections.
Jake Davies’ Jan is reserved and watchful, his delayed replies suggesting unwilling agreement, while Josh Williams’ Louis has a wide-eyed innocence and sense of another life awaiting.
Binding them with peer-group pressure is Thomas Coombes’ violent skinhead Paul. Whether denouncing society, kicking Wembley’s metal barrier-walls in fury, or lashing-out at others, he alternates unfounded enthusiasm and fury when things go wrong; ready material for the extreme Right. A smashing performance in terrific plays revived with all their visceral grip.
Paul: Thomas Coombes.
Jan: Jake Davies.
Louis: Josh Williams.
Director: Bill Buckhurst.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Rob Youngson.
Sound: Josh Richardson.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Jay Hirst.