Birmingham and Tour
Play: Circles by Rachel De-lahay
The Door: Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Tkts: 0121 236 4455
Runs: 1 h 5m: one interval: 9th – 24th May and touring
Start: 8.00 p.m.
Review: Jan Pick: 15.5.14
Round and round the circle line.
This is a very strong piece of drama by Rachel De-lahay. It presents serious issues with perception, neither trivialising them, yet with enough humour to leaven a rather grim subject. Circles refers not only to the famous Birmingham outer circle bus route where part of the action takes place, but also to the cycle of violence and abuse the women are locked into and how they manage to break free.
Demi, a young teenager of mixed race regularly rides the outer circle bus route from King’s Heath to Handsworth and back – it’s something to do!
On the top deck she meets Malachi from Handsworth and they make friends. Meanwhile, Demi’s mother, Angela, is on retreat from a violent relationship with Demi’s father and seeking temporary refuge with her mother, Phyllis, another victim of domestic violence. The pattern seems set to be repeated, yet as the play unfolds it seems that the cycle is about to be broken……
The set is evocative, glass panels traced with graffiti representing the windows of the bus, and simple rearrangements of seating to move location from bus to living room. Scenes merge into each other as the cast skilfully pick their way through the play’s forensic examination of these four lives.
Great performances fill out this somewhat underwritten play from the four strong ensemble cast, particularly Toyin Kinch, who subtly shows the vulnerability under Malachi’s swaggering exterior, a boy who is almost accidentally sucked into the black gang culture without intention, and Danusia Samul ‘s beautifully played Demi, a girl with a secret. Sarah Manners makes the most of Angela, Demi’s mother, struggling to believe in something beyond the wreckage of her life and Janice McKenzie as the matriarch of the family, damaged beyond repair but determined to survive is excellent.
Sound and lighting enhance the underlying tensions, light and shadow skilfully used to recreate the perception of a night ride on the bus and the
surprise sprung on the audience at the end is well worth the journey time.
Malachi: Toyin Kinch
Angela: Sarah Manners
Phyllis: Janice McKenzie
Demi: Danusia Samal
Director: Tessa Walker
Designer: Bob Bailey
Lighting Designer: Simon Bond
Sound Designer: Becky Smith
Casting Director: Polly Jerrold
Movement Director: Anna Morrissey
Fight Manager: Renny Krupinski
Production Manager: Sara Crathorne
Stage Manager: Michael Ramsay
DSM: Amber Curtis