Tag Archives: Suzann McLean

Extremism

Extremism

★★★★

Theatre Peckham

Extremism

Extremism

Theatre Peckham

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

 


Extremism

Theatre Peckham

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny | ★★★★★ | December 2018

 

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Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny
★★★★★

Theatre Peckham

Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Theatre Peckham

Reviewed – 6th December 2018

★★★★★

“sends you out into Peckham afterwards humming the music and full of goodwill to all”

 

You may not think of Robin Hood as a Christmas story, but this joyously realised version by Richard Hurford, with infectious Rap, Salsa and Reggae tunes by Rob Castell sends you out into Peckham afterwards humming the music and full of goodwill to all men, women and, in particular, the forty or so children of the cast, product of the venue’s own theatre school. This is the first production under incoming Artistic Director Suzann McLean (who also directs) and the perfect choice for this 30-year-old theatre’s mix of local talent and professionals.

The play’s twist of making Robin himself (academy alumni Malachi Green) so loveably hopeless means that all heroism and resolve for feeding the villagers and taking on the sadistic Sheriff of Nottingham (played with vulpine wit by Ray Newe) falls on the reluctant shoulders of Maid Marian (Ayanna Christie-Brown). Actually, this feels less like gender politics, more a hilarious reflection on modern life, with all these young inhabitants of Peckham growing up with no shortage of disappointing heroes. As the press release says, this Robin is real. In any case, he eventually faces his fears and we realise that figureheads are different to heroes and maybe communities need both.

As is traditional with Christmas shows, there is something for everyone, but it’s a nice change that the jokes for grown-ups are clever references, such as those to the ‘me too’ movement and austerity rather than the brash innuendos of pantomimes. Indeed, the production design as a whole foregoes glitz and noise for fun and charm. Instead of satin, sequins and extravagant headdresses, Designer Lily Faith Knight uses recycled materials; trees are made with corrugated cardboard and costumes gleaned from local charity shops, giving a retro impression which, when paired with the funky homemade music, recalls 70s rock musicals and Sesame Street in the time of Children’s Television Workshop.

As for performances, the irresistible feelgood factor ensures that the accomplished talents are loved, the less accomplished ones loved even more. The youngsters include some precocious talents, some surely destined to follow previous student John Boyega into a starry future. Others simply love inhabiting their parts – in this show every character has a name, no one’s just a villager! Of the grown-ups, Guy of Gisborne is portrayed with fun, energy and skill by debutante Gustavo Navarro, Friar Tuck played with aplomb and grumpy precision by Geoff Aymer. As Maid Marian, Ayanna Christie-Brown is tough, humble, yet full of bright-eyed optimism even while having to do everything herself, including delivering some magical musical moments in an effortless and soulful singing voice.

But as in every community, everyone fits in and plays their vital part. That’s the theme of this version of Robin Hood, but also of this production and of Theatre Peckham itself. And if it’s not a Christmassy theme, that’s Christmas’s problem.

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Suzi Corker

 

Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Theatre Peckham until 22nd December

 

Last five shows reviewed by this reviewer:
Semites | ★★★ | The Bunker | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2018
Woman of the Year | ★★★ | The Space | October 2018
Love Lies Bleeding | ★★★★ | Print Room at the Coronet | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | The Tower Theatre | November 2018

 

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