Reviewed – 7th November 2019
“Suzann McLean brings out the youthful energy of this talented group with great control, achieving a fluidity of movement and pace as the mood intensifies”
As we enter Theatre Peckham, we walk straight into the clamour of chatter and laughter found in every school before the bell goes. And it is from there that ‘Extremism’ unfolds. Brought to the attention of Miss Tomlinson, Jamal has been taken away by the Government authorities. Left teacher-less in the classroom, his fellow classmates try to understand what has happened – questioning, defending, arguing and accusing. ‘Prevent’ is a Government programme which aims to train and inform people in positions of trust, such as teachers, to be aware of signs of bullying, abuse and radicalisation. Known for his head-on political and social plays, from racism to the banking crisis, Anders Lustgarten takes this as his starting point and creates a frank interchange of opinions and ideas between the students to spark discussion and debate about social issues faced by young people today.
This cast of emerging actors surprise and inspire, each role illustrating the various insecurities, influences and attitudes absorbed from parents, peers and social media. From time to time the ‘Lord of the Flies’ scenario comes to mind, even down to the sympathetic, picked-on Piggy equivalent – Evan, played by Julien Pitchell. Then there is Olive (Na’eemah N’diaye) translating for her brother Samuel (Tyrell Weekes-Harper) who speaks in Klingon, too vulnerable to communicate directly. Kirsty (Hollie Regan) worries nervously about feeling safe in contrast to Nansi Love’s recalcitrant Rachel. Asha Hassan as Suhayla shows quiet strength from the outset while Marlo Rye’s Darren gradually uncovers the effects of his father’s narrow mindset. Denneil Dunbar is the witty and informed Chris, Kingsley Sowole plays Jordan, sincere, closest to Jamal and put under uncomfortable scrutiny and Nadezhda Stoycheva’ is a feisty, challenging Melina. Together they contrast and complement.
Director, Suzann McLean brings out the youthful energy of this talented group with great control, achieving a fluidity of movement and pace as the mood intensifies. Emma Wee’s set cleverly makes the classroom overflow into the audience (or vice versa) although, performing in the round, we sometimes miss the occasional line. As a provocative comment, there is plenty of material. As a drama it also makes a strong impact, using a classic build-up of tension with a twist at the end to underline the message.
Theatre Peckham exudes a very special atmosphere of community, friendship and integration, exemplary in their production of ‘Extremism’. A dynamic piece of theatre, Anders Lustgarten’s skilful writing engages us closely with ten distinctive characters whose views, emotions and fears build succinctly to an impassioned climax. And all in under an hour.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Raymond Field
Previously reviewed at this venue: