Tag Archives: Anya Reiss

My White Best Friend

My White Best Friend

The Bunker

My White Best Friend

My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid)

The Bunker

Reviewed – 20th March 2019



“Using the word show seems a bit weird. It wasn’t really a show. It was an event, a sharing.”


Yesterday evening at The Bunker felt unlike any evening I’ve ever spent in a theatre, and as such, I felt it was right to write about it in a totally different way. I’ve introduced an I for starters, and so I’m going to introduce myself too. I’m a cis, pansexual, middle class white woman, aged 48. It feels essential to let you know this, as the series of evenings which Rachel De-Lahay and Millie Bhatia have curated put identity centre stage – racial identity, class identity, sexual identity and gender identity – and one of the things that last night made very clear, is that we can only view things through our own identity prism. So the old myth of the invisible critic just won’t wash.

The Bunker felt like a club last night. Buzzy. There was an excellent DJ, we were all standing, and we were offered a drink (rum and Ting, delicious) when we walked into the space. It was a young crowd and it looked and felt and sounded like London; like the London that is outside, that we journeyed through to get there. Which felt great. And made me realise how rare that is. There were knots of friends chatting, predominantly people of colour, and a sense of relaxed ownership, a comfortable knowledge – this night is for us, and about us – which I could only share from the edges. And that feeling taught me something, even before the show began. Even using the word show seems a bit weird. It wasn’t really a show. It was an event, a sharing.

Rachel De-Lahay’s idea is a simple one: different writers leave a letter to be read out loud by a specific performer. The letter is in a sealed envelope and the performer reads it live, having never read it before. The evening kicks off with a long letter that Rachel wrote to one of her best friends, Inès de Clercq, and it is Inès who reads it. The letter is honest, and funny and uncomfortable for Inès to read, as it is a reminder that no matter how much Rachel loves her, her race can’t help but play a part in their relationship. It is uncomfortable for any white person to hear, to witness, to think about, and that’s the point. The young woman standing in front of me was completely overwhelmed by tears half way through this reading, and, throughout the night, the electricity of words being spoken that are so often, too often, left unsaid, was palpable. There was a charge; the air crackled with it. Of urgency, of energy, of presence.

The next letter was written as a piece of spoken word poetry. Fantastic writing by Jammz; it also dealt with race in friendship, and Ben Bailey Smith (‘I’m mixed race, so I’m my own white best friend’) was direct and charming, and did the words justice. The final, and longest letter of the evening was written by Zia Ahmed and read by Zainab Hasan. This took a different form again, with Zainab reading out a selection of quotes – from Zia himself, from the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, from popular Muslim comedians – before reading Zia’s unbearably painful story of continual racist profiling which led him finally to stop his job as a nanny.

It went against the grain to give this show a star rating, as the words and stories of these artists and performers don’t need my critical validation, but they do need to be listened to. So consider my five stars a way of saying that this is essential theatre. Get yourself a ticket and open your ears.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography courtesy The Bunker


My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid)

The Bunker until 23rd March


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Section 2 | ★★★★ | June 2018
Breathe | ★★★★ | August 2018
Eris | ★★★★ | September 2018
Reboot: Shorts 2 | ★★★★ | October 2018
Semites | ★★★ | October 2018
Chutney | ★★★ | November 2018
The Interpretation of Dreams | ★★★ | November 2018
Sam, The Good Person | ★★★ | January 2019
Welcome To The UK | ★★ | January 2019
Boots | ★★★★ | February 2019


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Open Air Theatre – Casting Announcement

Bringing two of Charles Dickens’s most popular stories out in the open as part of the 2017 season at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Dickens Uncovered celebrates the greatest storyteller of London life.

Casting and completed creative teams have been announced for A Tale of Two Cities (7 July – 5 August), a new play by Matthew Dunster adapted from the original novel, and Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over (17 July – 5 August) adapted by Anya Reiss especially for families.

Artistic Director, Timothy Sheader said:

“I am delighted that this group of 32 talented performers are coming together to reimagine these two iconic London stories. For those of us who read them alone at home, at school or on the tube, I hope we
can reclaim them anew together in the Park. For those who only know them as titles, then let us take you on a trip back to the nineteenth century blockbusters, via 2017. This is Dickens uncovered for everyone.”


Director Timothy Sheader has assembled a company of 21 actors to re-tell Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities: Lydia Bradford, Sean Cernow, Claire-Louise Cordwell, Marième Diouf, Patrick Driver, Nabil Elouahabi, Lorna Gayle, Lewis Griffin, Nicholas Karimi, Nicholas Khan, Andrew Koji, Kevork Malikyan, Francesca Mills, Jude Owusu, Tim Samuels with Aliya Ali, Evie Buxton, Mia Dalley, Foyinsola Ighodalo, Kaitlyn Kou, and Olivea Puci sharing the children’s roles.

Developing their programme of work made especially for families, Caroline Byrne directs Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over in daytime performances alongside A Tale of Two Cities. A cast of 8 actors, Robyn Cara, Rina Fatania, Danny-Boy Hatchard, Michael Hodgson, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Shaun Mason and Angela Wynter play multiple roles, with Tia-Lana Chinapyel, Lewis Fernée and Jordan Nash alternating in the title role.

Design for both productions is by Fly Davis. The completed creative teams also include, for A Tale of Two Cities: Liam Steel (Movement Direction), Lee Curran, who received an Olivier Award-nomination for Jesus Christ Superstar (Lighting Design) and Christopher Shutt (Sound Design).

For Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over, the creative team includes Lucy Burge (Movement Direction), Joshua Anio Grigg (Sound Design) and Joe Dieffenbacher (Physical Comedy Direction). Casting for both productions is by Polly Jerrold.

For full performance details of both productions, please visit the Open Air Theatre’s official website: