WILDEFIRE To 29 November.


by Roy Williams.

Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage To 29 November 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 29 Nov 3pm (+Touch tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 25 Nov (+ transcribed Post Show Discussion)..
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 November.

Well-researched elements don’t fuse into a credible compound.
It’s a Force-full time at Hampstead. Downstairs, Atiha Sen Gupta’s State Red examines how ethnic tensions are exerted between Black and White police officers who have been good friends, while on a broader canvas, upstairs Roy Williams takes Hampstead outside its comfort zone with a raw portrait of a well-meaning young woman transferring from the comparative tameness of Horsham police into the tough operating field of the Met, where Force means force.

Williams’ piece starts as a piece of epic theatre, on a rough environment of platforms at once bare and skeletal, metallically resonant when struck by bodies or truncheons. Sir Robert Peel declares the principles underlying his new force in 1829 – policing with consent, identifying police and public, preventing crime. Then things turn all modern and lofty aims crash amidst reality.

Personal ambitions, tactics to elicit information and physical threat are the practice, while the populace being policed offer little chance for anything else. Gradually, the play’s epic scope narrows to a focus on newcomer Gail’s change from smiling optimism to the jungle-law survival techniques, in which her naivety causes more harm than good. Her mentor is killed, and she stabbed, in what Maria Aberg’s production treats as a nightmare, hoodied youths stripping the officer’s dead body like creatures devouring their prey.

Gail also manages to mess-up a fellow-officer’s career through her naivety, while turning her back on a victim of domestic violence and intimidation just when the woman concerned is about to admit to her situation.

As this happens, Gail’s home life becomes tormented and her mind filled with fearful imaginings, the initial realism becoming submerged in a confusion of fevered imaginings and nightmares.

Which works counter to any overview of police and public. If this arid violence, expressed inevitability in terse, aggro-speak, is all London’s streets present, Williams finds no solution to the mix of canteen-culture and feral pack-hunting. After a violent climax where theatrical energy drowns-out dramatic meaning, the quiet “Thank you” concluding events is a fragile hope. At least it’s decipherable, in a noisy evening where the bare staging can create a blurred acoustic.

Lee: Eric Kofi Abrefa.
Vince: Cian Barry.
Spence: Riky Champ.
Sean: Danny Dalton.
Marcus/Officer: Sammy Hayman.
Kristal: Tara Hodge.
Don: Fraser James.
Chris: Simon Manyonda.
Merchant/Kid: Noof Ousellam.
Gail: Lorraine Stanley.
Maxine: Sharlene Whyte.
Ensemble: Danielle Kassarate, Lewis Davidson,
Stefan Ruiz, Azara Meghie, Nolan Willis.

Director: Maria Aberg.
Designer: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Movement: Ayse Tashkiran.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Liz Stephenson.

2014-11-19 08:32:52

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