“Good design and convincing acting ultimately save this messy, drawn-out and static production”
‘Stop and Search’ is Gabriel Gbadamosi’s “play as a Londoner” and, like London, is a sprawling, confusing urban adventure brimming with big ideas. A strong opening scene sets up some intriguing characters with questionable histories, but it’s a downhill slog from there.
Built around three tediously long conversations, the play professes to explore personal distrust and the blurring of lines between friendly chat and interrogation. Tel (Shaun Mason) picks up hitchhiking Akim (Munashe Chirisa) on his way smuggling illegal furs across the Channel. Meanwhile good cop/bad cop team Tone (David Kirkbride) and Lee (Tyler Luke Cunningham) pass the time working on a surveillance job closely linked to Tel’s girlfriend Bev (Jessye Romeo) and his own illegal activity. The final scene sees Akim as a cab driver, picking up Bev who has started to question how much her life is worth living.
The constellation of characters and situation should lead to fireworks, but instead burns out to empty exposition. Gbadamosi’s script fails in creating action and plot within the temporal and spatial confines of the play. Those long, winding conversations, although littered with some pretty turns of phrase, are not interesting enough in their own right to hold our attention. In fact, by reaching towards style over substance, the dialogue becomes quite opaque at times, leaving audience members asking on their way out: “Did you get what that was about?”
Mehmet Ergen’s direction does not help matters. Two out of three scenes take place in a car and remain static and restricted because of it. There is no sense of place or atmosphere in the one outdoor scene. As with the script, the direction lacks action and hides behind the words. The scenic design is reminiscent of a grimy underground car park, and Daniel Balfour’s sound builds a suitable feeling of dread in the climax of the piece. The actors work hard to create complex and convincing characters and give the script a much-needed energy. Chirisa and Mason remain the most interesting and evenly matched partnership.
‘Stop and Search’ does to London what ‘True Detective’ did to L.A. There is a whole world hidden behind this script that wants exploring, but this is sadly not the play to do it. Good design and convincing acting ultimately save this messy, drawn-out and static production.
“in modernising the poetic writing, the atmosphere of reality in the first half leaves us unprepared for the expressionism of the second”
The first of Federico Garcia Lorca’s famous trilogy of tragedies expressing extreme elemental passions and the powerful Spanish theme of honour, ‘Blood Wedding’ is a poetic drama set in rural Andalucia. Influenced strongly by the past – medieval ballads, traditional songs and early metrical structure – he also incorporates modern and surrealist ideas, shocking in his day. Director, George Richmond-Scott, updates the story to present day London, leaving the verse dialogue behind and omitting characters, in particular the wedding entourage, which have a somewhat Greek chorus effect in the original. However, in relocating both in time and place, we lose the essence of close-knit family feuds, social pressures and the submissive position of women, which undermine the burning sense of calamity and resignation. And in modernising the poetic writing, the atmosphere of reality in the first half leaves us unprepared for the expressionism of the second.
The cast complement each other in style, creating moments of humour, music and movement but it is Maria de Lima as the Mother who is the underlying strength of the play, carrying her pain throughout as a reminder of humanity’s tragic impotence. The smouldering sentiments of Leo (Ash Rizi) are quietly but intensely present and the Wife’s sad fate is beautifully portrayed by Miztli Rose Neville. The Son and the Bride (Federico Trujillo and Racheal Ofori) each have their poignant moment – the opening scene showing the touching connection between Mother and Son, and the Bride’s moving declaration to Leo in the third act, but the weight of their doomed relationship fails to come across. Camilla Mathias’ musical interludes fit invitingly into the narrative as does her cameo role as the Neighbour, and Yorgos Karamalegos personifies the Moon with expressive movement, strangely out of place in this real-world concept.
While Christianna Mason’s set design fills the unadorned stage with doorways, platforms and steps to create a feeling of urban space, Richmond-Scott’s artful direction uses the whole theatre, cleverly involving the audience in the action. Lorca’s stage directions are very precise and he gives clear instructions for music, sound and colour. The lighting (Jack Weir) gives dramatic context to the bareness of the surroundings and the sound by Daniel Balfour is perfectly coordinated with the action, adding extra dimension to the scenes.
It is an innovative idea to remodel such a profoundly traditional piece of theatre. It has a relatable script, genuinely tortuous emotions, immersive involvement and abstract interaction but it is an uneven production in the general structure and on an emotional level.