London.: Mogadishu: To April 2, 2011
Posted by: Carole Woddis on Mar 21, 2011 – 15.10pm
by Vivienne Franzmann.
Lyric Theatre King Street Hammersmith W6 0QL To 2 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 23, 30 March 1.30pm; 28 March, 2 April 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 22 March.
Runs 2hr 30 min One interval.
TICKETS: 0871 221 1729.
Typetalk: 18001 0871 22 117 29
Review: Carole Woddis 16 March.
School troubles make gripping drama.
Aside from their reputation for the ghoulish, the Lyric Hammersmith have steadily acquired a track record for state-of-the-nation plays seen through the education system. After Punk Rock, also from Manchester’s ever-enterprising Royal Exchange, the Lyric now have (for 14+) their latest educational misfit transfer, Mogadishu.
The word summons up images of mayhem and bloody civil war, presumably intentional on the part of 2008 Bruntwood Playwriting co-prize-winner, Vivienne Franzmann to draw parallels between today’s English state school system and African chaos.
If so, it’s a depressing conclusion. How have we got here and why?
These are questions not addressed by Franzmann. Or any other playwright as far as I’m aware, despite the plethora of school plays now circulating.
Instead Franzmann has written a still powerful, profoundly disturbing portrait concerning racial tensions and the power of lies. In certain respects, it’s a variation on The Children’s Hour. The power of a lie in this instance destroys both teacher and pupil.
Franzmann whose first play, amazingly, this is, speaks whereof she knows. For twelve years she was a drama teacher in north London schools. She must have seen a thing or two. And what she relates here focuses uncomfortably on skin colour, peer pressure and the unforeseen consequences of legislation designed to curb abuse but which instead conflates and hardens situations.
In the end, though, more than ideological or social issues it is, movingly, about the psychological and emotional damage of children whose parents have committed suicide.
Matthew Dunster’s production pulsates with organised electricity. Behind the circular, emblematic floor to ceiling wire-grill, Franzmann’s victims and perpetrators prowl, bitch and suffer. The dialogue crackles; the teenagers are untameable and the teachers, especially Julia Ford’s well-meaning Amanda, at their wits’ ends.
This is a fantastic ensemble piece, every individual picked out and defined, if worryingly stereotyped in its portrayal of British Black students. Malachi Kirby’s Jason is terrifying as is the weakness of his classmates’ collusion. Franzmann keeps the motivating factors until very late in the day. But, if we were handing out stars, in my book they’d be up there with four gold ones.
Jason: Malachi Kirby.
Chloe: Tara Hodge.
Saif: Farshid Rokey.
Chuggs: Tendayi Jembere.
Dee: Savannah Gordon-Liburd.
Jordon: Hammed Animashaun.
Firat: Michael Karim.
Amanda: Julia Ford.
Becky: Shannon Tarbet.
Chris: Ian Bartholomew.
Peter: Christian Dixon.
Ben: Fraser James.
Director: Matthew Dunster.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Voice coach: Wyllie Longmore.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Kim Pearce.
World premiere of Mogadishu at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 26 January 2011.