by Carlon Campbell Robinson.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 14 May 2011.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Martin Franks 10 May.
Excellently acted, a dangerous prison play that also speaks of the contemporary dysfunction of states and estates.
What a powerful, unsettling piece this is, with a fabulous central performance by Clifford Samuel and a talented, strong ensemble. It is a vital contemporary play, where the dysfunction of a prison is a paradigm for a dysfunctional world.
We start with a piece of Rap which isn’t just the usual bigoted doggerel (though some of it is) but it plays out through Samuel’s mouth as a passionate cri de coeur. If you’re not frightened, then you’re not listening. Because fear plays a major part in this exploration of contemporary prison life for an abused and abusing, murdering and drug-dealing young black man.
And nowadays this is all mixed-in with the central role that a certain type of Islam plays for the disaffected, the chaotic and the angry. These players made an audience feel for the passionate bonding of the brotherhood whilst also revealing the filthy, illogical fascism of this new ideological tribalism. In response, or partly as cause, the equally dysfunctional Whites fight back. And in the middle is the damaged but empathetic warder.
Carlon Campbell Robinson, who is still in prison serving life for firearms offences, is a good writer. Esther Baker as director of this piece, and artistic director of producing company Synergy Theatre Project has done a fine job in bringing the story viscerally to life. It’s not perfect – some of the revelations and turnarounds are too quick and unbelievable, some of the speeches too poetic for the characters and inclined to preach – better to let the reality ask the questions and leave the audience to find the answers.
Despite these imperfections, this is an important, powerfully played piece about the contemporary underbelly of all of us. Teachers take your pupils. Constituents take your MPs. Ken Clarke – take the cabinet.
Warren: Danny Bedford.
Liam: Ben Bishop.
Raymond: Gareth Kieran Jones.
Shevontay: Petra Letang.
Ikrimah: Terence Maynard.
Officer Cole: Christopher Middleton.
Wayne: Tom Padley.
Angel/David: Alexis Rodney.
Mark: Clifford Samuel.
Chelsea: Danielle Vitalis.
Director: Esther Baker.
Costume: Emmett de Monterey.
Assistant director: Kenneth O’Toole.