by Robin Soans.
Bush Theatre 7 Uxbridge Road W12 8LJ To 16 August 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 26 July 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8743 5050.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 July.
Persevere with a play that shows it has plenty of drive.
There’s no word to define the kind of play Perseverance Drive represents. Plenty of terms refer to it – realistic, family-drama, well-made – but none defines it. Which is a sign of the strength of Robin Soans’ script and the production by Bush Theatre Artistic Director Madani Younis.
Slowly, at first, the play introduces us to the Barbados household of just-widowed Eli Gillard. There’s no exposition as such, but gradually aspects of his life and details about his family are revealed by the characters’ behaviour. Tradition and authority matter here; Eli orders every detail, and Leo Wringer’s upright posture and stern command indicate a lifetime of living by standards that give him, in age, such rights.
Soans includes details that will later surprise. Frances Ashman’s Ruth is obedience personified, and so she continues, but with passion steering her away from a loveless home. Young Joyleen, new here and reprimanded for her décolletage in the heat, ends as rampantly self-righteous and keen for material gain.
The act builds to a funeral glorious in its hymning of the departed Grace and comical as family fissures widen, particularly disapproval of Josh’s sexuality. And Josh, to the interval, seems a discontented, disruptive presence.
Four years later, moved to east London, Eli has to deal with age and sickness, his ramrod uprightness turned to back-bending pain. It’s Clint Dyer’s Josh and Ruth – now dealing with her battle of love against respectability – who help Eli, while the self-proclaiming righteous ignore the old man or turn-up with self-interest motives. Where words are spoken loud, it’s quiet, helpful actions that do good.
Younis gains strong performances all-round, Akiya Henry’s Joylene and DeKolade Agboke’s Zechariah busily taking command as soon-to-retire cleric Marvin places faith in their external show.
It takes patience at first, where it’s easy to feel like an outsider at a family gathering. Gradually though, we come to appreciate the dynamics between these people, and become involved in their lives. For behind the evidently symbolic title is a finely-crafted reality creating believable and interesting individuals whose story unfolds in a well-structured, steadily-paced action that’s deeply satisfying to watch.
Eli Gillard: Leo Wringer.
Nathan Gillard: Derek Ezenagu.
Ruth Gillard: Frances Ashman.
Joshua Gillard: Clint Dyer.
Zechariah Gillard: Kolade Agboke.
Joylene Gillard: Akiya Henry
Marvin Clarke: Ray Shell.
Errol Clarke: Lloyd Everitt.
Director: Madani Younis.
Designer: Jaimie Todd.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Wed Clarke.
Musical arranger: Rev Bazil Meade.
Dialect coach: Claudette Williams.
Dramaturg: Rob Drummer.
Associate director: Omar Elerian.