by Damien Tracey.
Tristan Bates Theatre 1a Tower Street WC2H 9NP To 24 August 2013.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7240 6283.
www.camdenfringe.com (booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 August.
Impact of bombings from an unusual angle.
Appearing for a week as part of this year’s Camden Fringe, Damien Tracey’s new play considers the aftershock of the July 2005 London bombings, when merely to be Asian was, in some minds, to be a terrorist suspect. Ashfaq’s used to that in his Manchester shop, but he’s surprised at the identity of a night-time intruder, a friend from Ireland who’s come wildly seeking revenge for his partner’s death in the attacks.
Vengefully confused, Eddie ends up killing and being killed, Ashfaq charged with his murder. He has a star character witness, a (presumably New Labour) politician, David. But David’s withdrawn his support; clawing his way from the sidelines into the spotlight, he’s been ‘advised’ that a relationship with an Asian woman Sam isn’t something to have advertised, particularly as she’s a member of Ashfaq’s family.
Tracey opens with these compromises and tensions between David and Sam widened by Ashfaq’s visit, before shifting to show events in the Manchester shop which led to Eddie’s death. Except, he shows everything but that, stopping short of the crucial moment; if things didn’t happen precisely as Ashfaq described, the play loses a key moral point.
The ending is abrupt, neither showing what happened in ‘whodunnit’ style nor working through to final implications in terms of David and Sam’s argument over supporting Ashfaq. And there’d be room for a return to the London setting, with Ashfaq awaiting trial. Both scenes as they exist could be tightened in dialogue, the first particularly.
The necessarily minimal staging doesn’t help Jason B Moore’s production. There’s a clear distinction between smart London and working Manchester worlds, is all is sharp enough in the second scene’s gunpoint moments, but elsewhere there’s emotive playing that lacks light and shade or a sense the characters have anything to do but stand around speaking dialogue.
Yet, while there were different levels of playing at the opening preview, David’s moral cowardice and Ashfaq’s anxiety are evident, and the play has a valuable, individual approach to the personal strains and public divisions which complicate lives affected by a terrorist attack in a media-driven world.
David: Cameron Harris.
Ashfaq: Omar Ibrahim.
Sam: Avita Jay.
Eddie: Shane Noone.
Yasmeenah: Ruby Victoria.
Director: Jason B Moore.