Tag Archives: Manish Gandhi

On Railton Road

On Railton Road


Museum of Home

ON RAILTON ROAD at the Museum of the Home


On Railton Road

“there is simply too much and no theme receives a thorough or satisfying explanation”

In the 1970s, the area around Railton Road in Brixton was a hotbed of radicalism, with activist groups setting up centres in the many dilapidated buildings lining the street. In a bid to highlight queer domestic spaces, the Museum of the Home’s first theatrical production On Railton Road makes use of rare archival interviews with squatters and revolutionaries of the era to bring this seditious period to life on stage.

We are introduced to the nonconformist lives of the residents of one squat on Railton Road through the eyes of the naïve Ned (Manish Gandhi) who pines after the polyamorous Phillip (Thomas Royal). The whimsical Atom (Jaye Hudson) spins around in the garden on an acid trip whilst Daire (Jamal Franklin) seeks to create art. The radical Casper (Hannah van der Westhuysen) desires to do something more sinister – to firebomb a WHSmith during the annual pride march. Clifford (Dan de la Motte) and Jack (Nicholas Marrast Lewis) oversee the household – conducting votes on whether to take direct action and keeping clashing personalities and opinions in check.

The play is divided into two parts that intermingle with one another. One, the fabricated but informed story of some of those who lived on Railton Road. The other, a thoroughly camp production of ‘Mr Punch’s Nuclear Family’, an original play by the 1974-established Brixton Faeries who sort to use theatre to share their experiences and grievances with a wider public.

The latter is by far the highlight of the overall production. ‘Mr Punch’s Nuclear Family’ is absurdist in style and comedy and the cast do an excellent job of presenting the play in ad hoc street theatre style. The props and costumes here are excellent also – mop wigs for judges, massive hands attached to extendable corrugated conduits for the police officer, and, the pièce de resistance, a giant papier mâché judge head designed by Oliver James-Hymans and puppeteered by Lewis. These scenes are pure joy and the conclusion of the Faeries’ work was met with rapturous applause.

The scenes of life on Railton Road are not bad by any means. There are lots of interesting topics raised including violence vs passivity, racial relations, class division, open relationships, and the future of gay liberation. However, there is simply too much and no theme receives a thorough or satisfying explanation. The tonal shifts can be very dramatic and confusing, further exacerbated by two scenes often happening on stage at one time to further multiple plotlines concurrently.

“With some significant pruning of the play’s length and a clearer focus, this will be a very valuable piece of theatre indeed”

Some characters are also stronger than others. Ned – though very sweet and performed magnificently by Gandhi upon the sudden death of one of his housemates – does not seem like a wholly necessary character. He is the eyes through which the audience is introduced to the household’s bohemian way of life, but his presence doesn’t garner any further explanation from the other characters, they offer this up readily already amongst themselves. Franklin is the standout in his role as Daire. He is fun, loud, and energetic. He brings great life to the stage whilst also leaning into more poignant moments with great ease. His speech on why he is opposed to violent action is particularly strong.

The set (Ian Giles) is good. We see a kitchen, dining table and empty space that alternates between garden, bedroom and living space. Actors enter and exit from pretty much any direction and often trapse around the audience whilst delivering their lines. This envelops the audience in the activity of the squat – we have joined the Railton Road clan, and we are proud of it. The musical arrangements also deserve a mention. Sophie Crawford plays sweet tunes on her accordion and A Gay Song (1972), the earliest known example of a defiant chant from the early 70s pride marches to be recorded, is performed with gusto.

The play concludes with a welcome history lesson to wrap-up. We see the squatters form the Brixton Co-operative Housing in the early 1980s and returning to their old home in the 2000s to reminisce about their once radical endeavours. We hear about their struggles to establish themselves under a Thatcherite government and the painful loss of the AIDS epidemic. We are reminded in these final moments that these characters are based on real people and experiences and that they must not be forgotten.

On Railton Road does a great job at raising awareness of the revolutionary activity of the 1970s. With some significant pruning of the play’s length and a clearer focus, this will be a very valuable piece of theatre indeed.

ON RAILTON ROAD at the Museum of the Home

Reviewed on 2nd November 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by Lara Dunn





Top shows we reviewed in October:

Dear England | ★★★★★ | Prince Edward Theatre | October 2023
Elephant | ★★★★★ | Bush Theatre | October 2023
The Least We Could Do | ★★★★★ | Hope Theatre | October 2023
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane | ★★★★★ | Noël Coward Theatre | October 2023
This Is Not A Circus: 360 | ★★★★★ | Jacksons Lane | October 2023

On Railton Road

On Railton Road

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There or Here – 3.5 Stars


There or Here

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 25th January 2018


“The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn”


In recent times almost no industry has been spared from jobs being outsourced overseas, but in There or Here the audience are asked what happens when life, or at least the gestation of it, is outsourced? Written by Jennifer Maisel, There or Here looks at the relationship between reproductive autonomy and parenthood, fertility tourism, marital disconnect and emigrant connection to their birthplace.

Robyn and Ajay (played by Lucy Fenton and Chris Nayak), are an American couple desperate to make plans for the future before the present catches up with them. Robyn’s cancer diagnosis has brought an immediacy to decisions about starting a family and so, wanting a child that is biologically theirs, the couple seek out a surrogate in India.

The play is set in early 2006 but alternates between past and present, centring around the week the couple spend in India arranging the surrogacy. Both Fenton and Nayak give convincing performances at such a critical juncture in any relationship.

Apart from the outsourcing central to the plot, we see other forms of outsourced labour made possible by technology in a globalised world. With the cancer and surrogacy causing a strain on their relationship, Robyn and Ajay talk very little to each other, preferring instead to open up to a technical support operator, drive-through attendant or even phone-sex worker. Rakhee Thakrar is versatile as all three and more, although underutilised as merely a sounding board for the leads monologued frustrations. Ursula Mohan and Manish Ghandi double up as the surrogate’s doctor and husband in India and Robyn’s mother and mother’s much younger toy boy in America, for some light comic relief.

The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn. It feels as if Maisel is trying to cover too much ground and given the complex themes would have benefitted from a less confused outcome.

There or here was produced by Special Relationship productions, whose mission is to “find work that features underrepresented demographics”, boasting for this production “an entirely female, BAME, and/or LGBTQ+ cast and crew”, something that unfortunately is still all too rare in British Theatre. It is the combination of the authentic performances, sound, visuals and set under Vik Sivalingam’s direction that make for an overall engaging and thought provoking show.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography by Ikin Yum


There or Here

Park Theatre until 17th February



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