by Natasha Langridge.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 21 November 2009.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 18 Nov.
BSL Signed 18 Nov.
Captioned 19 Nov.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7478 0100.
Review: Carole Woddis 4 November.
Love in a lovely language.
Gypsies stir up passions. Public perceptions are almost completely negative. Natasha Langridge – co-author with Heidi Stephenson of an illuminating book on women playwrights, Rage and Reason (Methuen, 1997) – has, however, discovered another side.
Using the recent eviction of a group of Romanies from their 40-year old site in Hackney, she’s produced a delicate love story that touches on the poetic in its portrait of their life. In the process she’s also discovered a new language.
For if Shraddhã presents a slightly rose-tinted aspect, it does so in a remarkably distinctive text: staccato, streetwise and Romany vernacular all intermixed.
Pearl (Jade Williams) is a young Romany who has fallen in love with Joe (Alex Waldmann) a gorger (outsider) from the local estate. They meet by the garden fence – or in this case, high, barbed wire fencing, physically and metaphorically separating them from the rest of society.
In a series of short scenes, we encounter Pearl’s mother (unrecognisable Miranda Foster) and grandmother (even less recognisable Anna Carteret) in their caravan preparing to leave, and warning Pearl of the dangers of stepping beyond the tribal circle.
In one of the play’s more remarkable passages, Joe goes north to a horse fair and to prove his bravery and courage to Pearl, arranges a fight which he wins. It’s a superb piece of galvanised, descriptive writing, perfectly delivered by Waldmann, and the resulting triumph sees the two slipping away.
These initial scenes together capture a lovely sense of free, united spirits before dark clouds close in and their differences – Joe’s urban sensibility, for all his rough, working class physicality, Pearl’s wilder, untethered, mystical connection to the earth – are exposed.
Shraddhã is a gentle – personal rather than political – piece, for all its implied violence. It follows, however, in a terrific and honourable playmaking tradition in this country, of giving space to otherwise hidden or discounted voices.
Lisa Goldman directs with admirable restraint and has cleverly woven a modern, interactive element into it. Go online to http//play.simongames.co.uk to try and find a place, nearest to the Soho theatre, where a traveller could stop overnight.
Pearl: Jade Williams.
Joe: Alex Waldmann.
Ann: Miranda Foster.
Granny: Anna Carteret.
Dean: Jim Pope.
Musician: Aidan Broadbridge.
Director: Lisa Goldman.
Designer: Jon Bausor.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Dialect coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Movement director: Ann Yee.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Damian Le Bas.
Assistant designer: Matt Hellyer.