by Nakkiah Lui.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 15 September 2015.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm Sat & Tue 2pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 August. November.
Uneven but finally forceful.
Be careful, indeed, what you ask for. The day before seeing Nakkiah Lui’s play I qualified praise for the other current Finborough show, My Eyes Went Dark, by asking for narrative clarity (where, when and between precisely whom, events were taking place).
Then This Heaven comes along. Both plays concern individual action to achieve justice for a family death when the law and public institutions deny there is a case for retribution.
In My Eyes, anger stems from the law’s refusal to accept a crime’s occurred. In This Heaven the authorities try to evade responsibility by offering a no-blame, end-of-story nine-thousand dollar compensation for the death. This adds-up, as is repeatedly said, to an insult; no White death – certainly not of anyone of standing – would be so brushed-aside.
Liu’s script is clear; a native Australian’s family seek justice for his death under police custody in New South Wales. What’s happened, is happening and is about to happen are all made very clear, as feelings about matters are explosively expressed throughout and with no inhibitions about repetition.
That’s realistic in the case of young Ducky (Bevan Celestine, tall, imposing and angry, giving the name a quality very different from its English usage) has the obsessive anger that circles round unresolved fury until it spirals into action.
People keep calling Ducky blind but Bevan’s character hardly seems unseeing. What’s infuriating for him is a dilemma for sister Sissy, a thoughtful yet uneasy Nicôle Lecky. She’s about to graduate as a lawyer and become a native voice within Australia’s mainstream legal system when events divide her between that ambition and the implications of her ethnicity.
If one moment encapsulates the play, it’s Sissy’s silent rejection of the legal establishment, indicated by her smearing black markings on her face. The thoughtful person has arrived at a deeper version of Duckie’s impulsive anger and street revolt.
For all its episodic, rough-cut aspects, Lui’s play dignifies the family and their traditions, contrasting their anger and grief with the detached logic of even sympathetic outsiders, something made clear by the performances in Laura McCluskey’s production.
Ducky: Bevan Celestine.
Joan: Elizabeth Uter.
James: Timothy Knightley.
Sissy: Nicôle Lecky.
Ryan: James Mack.
Director: Laura McCluskey.
Designer: Zoe Hammond.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Movement: Anjali Mehra-Highes.
Sound/Music: Jon McLeod.