by Rachel De-lahay.
Bussey Building 133 Rye Lane Peckham SE15 4ST To 19 November.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm mats Thurs Nov 17 & Sat 12, 19 at 3.30pm. Performances Sold Out.
then Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) 25 November-23 December 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 3, 10, 15, 17, 20 Dec 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 10 November.
Theatre very aptly local.
Peckham Rye is a rich melting pot of African, Afro-Caribbean, Indian sub-continent, with now and then a touch of White working-class.
And opposite Peckham Rye rail station stands the Bussey building, formerly a cricket bat factory and these days, like so many old industrial buildings, reborn as a home for artists and faith organisations.
It’s here that the Royal Court have come to rest as part of their Local project, adapting the building into a temporary theatre and entrenching themselves in a community where Sloane Square is as foreign a concept as, well, Addis Ababa. Probably more so.
Not long ago, the Arcola played host to a play about the tensions existing between African and Caribbean communities in East London. In The Westridge first time writer, Rachel De-lahay explores the under-currents between today’s Caribbean and Asian communities in this part of south east London.
Seen through the eyes of two families – one Pakistani, one Caribbean – its intensely domestic focus sometimes ends up sounding like no more than a beefed-up episode of Eastenders. Surprisingly, too, given the Royal Court’s new writing record, it cries out for some judicious cutting.
What still makes De-Lahay’s debut notable is the authenticity of her writing and the dynamism of director Clint Dyer’s production even if it also lends itself to inaudibility at the far-flung corners of designer Ultz’s square platform staging, which surrounds us like a corrida. Penned in, we swivel and turn as a young Black-mixed race and Pakistani couple, Marcus and Soriya fall prey to the pressures of racial prejudice. De-layhay’s achievement is to take racial stereotypes on both sides and expose them for the destructive forces they are.
Surprisingly for a play about the Asian-Black divide, the most vivid writing comes with White celeb and beauty-obsessed wannabe Georgina, given a rip-roaring performance by Daisy Lewis.
As with Bola Agbaje’s 2007 debut play, Gone Too Far, the Royal Court have tapped into a raw contemporary nerve and presented it in an area where, just beyond the theatre door, the issues are played out daily with often terrifying life-and-death reality.
Andre: Ryan Calais Cameron.
Audrey: Jo Martin.
Soriya: Chetna Pandya.
Marcus: Fraser Ayres.
Georgina: Daisy Lewis.
Saghir: Paul Bhatteracharjee.
Ibi: Ray Panthaki.
Old Lady: Adlyn Ross.
Sara: Shavani Seth.
Boy: Samuel Foray.
Director: Clint Dyer.
Lighting: Katharine Williams.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Fight director: Alison De Burgh.
Assistant director: Kuldip Powar.
Assistant designers: Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey, Mark Simmonds.
The World Premiere of The Westbridge was at the Bussey Building Peckham Rye on 3 November 2011; this production played subsequently at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs from 25 November. It was developed with the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation as part of the Unheard Voices project and produced as part of Jerwood New Playwrights, supported by the Jerwood Foundation.