by Rachel De-lahay.
Royal Court Theatre (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 12 October 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 3pm.
Captioned 9 Oct.
Runs: 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 25 September.
The voiceless speak clearly.
Rachel De-lahay’s Routes certainly packs a myriad of worlds into seventy minutes. With immigration and deportation hot on the political agenda – remember the recent row over Coalition buses touring London exhorting illegal immigrants to `go home or face arrest’? – De-lahay’s second full-length play dives headlong into the debate showing those unhappily caught up in Home Office and Border Agency rulings. It’s a story of hope, dreams, nightmare legal wrangling and friendship.
At its best, theatre has always been about giving a voice to the voiceless. Routes is no exception. De-layhay shows remarkable empathy for her young tearaways whose single anti-social acts would lay them open to easy stereotyping as `a bad lot’ but who she shows capable of emotional growth and some integrity. Particularly the young Somali, Bashir. It is largely through his emotional maturity that Londoner Kola, a fellow inmate at Feltham and `half-way’ house room-mate, begins to learn some important lessons about companionship and love.
Showing a marked leap forward from her debut piece, The Westbridge – itself no mean achievement, looking at the tensions between London’s Caribbean and Asian communities – De-lahay’s contrasting characters: those struggling to get into the UK, those allowed in and those being forced out – also quietly insinuate how parenting and the colour of skin may play their part.
Some of the plotting edges towards the improbable – Bashir falls in love with the impossibly unreachable Anka, a volunteer charity worker. And Kola’s mother just happens to work for the Border Agency, a too neat juxtaposition.
But such is De-lahay’s command of dialogue and understanding of linguistic codes – at one point Kola upbraids Bashir for talking “like a foreigner” because he hasn’t fallen into Kola’s contemporary British street jargon – Routes steadily begins to touch the heart.
Simon Godwin directs with a cool stylistic eye and there are compelling (if occasionally unintelligible) performances from the young cast, with outstanding contributions from award-winning Anamaria Marinca as Anka and Fiston Barek as the sweet-souled Bashir.
Nigerian, Somali, mixed-race, white British and white European – just a tiny cross-section of today’s London melting pot. But a potent one.
Abiola: Seun Shote.
Olufemi: Peter Bankolé.
Kola: Calvin Demba.
Bashir: Fiston Barek.
Lisa: Claire Lams.
Anka: Anamaria Marinca.
Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Composer: Stuart Earl.
Sound: David McSeveney.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Chelsea Walker.
Routes had its World premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 20 September 2013 and is part of the Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights programme, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.