by Rebecca Peyton and Martin M Bartelt.

Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 23 January 2012.
Sun-Mon 7.30pm. Sold out except for extra shows 24 Jan 3pm; 25 Jan 9.30pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee). (full-price tickets reduced online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 January.

Detailed account of life going on, shaded by death, would benefit from plainer style of telling.
This must be reality theatre. Rebecca Peyton here plays Rebecca Peyton. And while modern drama can use real-life names to give conviction to fictional events, it is vital we believe this script records reality. Peyton is recounting the part of her life affected by her sister Kate’s assassination while reporting for the BBC in Somalia.

Some public aspects are lightly touched on; pressure to have her BBC contract renewed persuaded a reluctant Kate to accept a war-zone assignment without proper opportunity to prepare (the BBC hinted at legal tussles if blamed by the family). As for the killer; quite possible he and the warlord who ordered the killing are now themselves dead.

Where the script, finally, seeks to broaden itself into a tribute for murdered journalists it comes unstuck. Why journalists above, say, aid and medical workers who put themselves in danger for others? The special pleading falls far behind the journalistic bravery impressively documented in last summer’s On the Record at the Arcola.

But when it records the personal impact of a sister’s death, the piece is strong, examining the forgetting, then sudden realisation of death, something often accompanied by a feeling of resentment in a paradox simultaneously intense and prosaic. Or the kindness of Somali people who, despite their poverty, knitted a giant Somali flag for the coffin.

Then there’s the semi-shamed use of the murder to seek tiny privileges, like regaining access after eviction from a Brixton nightclub, guilt overlaid with life’s necessities. And the triumph represented by the Congolese Salvation Army Band who, unable to hire a van, somehow made it from London in clapped-out cars to play at Kate’s Suffolk funeral.

With such a story, it’s a pity that, at the Finborough preview (following a tour) Rebecca Peyton adopted such a fussy acting style, with drawn-out pauses at unlikely and unhelpful places in many sentences, plus a tiresome wandering round the stage. It’s the kind of detail that seems meant to give a sense of the everyday but which becomes distractingly mannered. A pity, because there’s an involving individual story being told behind it all.

Performer: Rebecca Peyton.

Director: Martin M Bartelt.

2012-01-10 22:41:57

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