Tag Archives: Danusia Samal

"Out of Sorts" at Theatre 503

As winner of the International Playwriting Award, the figures surrounding Danusia Samal’s new work are impressive – it was selected out of 2,055 scripts from 49 countries. While judging so many plays must be hard, it’s easy to see why the panel chose this one. A firmly rooted story of modern London life, with drama from the dilemmas facing a young Muslim woman caught between “two worlds that do not mix”, Samal balances humour and pathos with skill and assurance.

It’s clever that our heroine Zara, impeccably performed by Nalân Burgess, isn’t entirely sympathetic. Zara’s parents, from whom she hides her Westernised life, deserve more from her. They are, at best, a source of fun for Zara and her flatmate, Alice, another satisfying part that’s developed well by Emma Denly. Samal presents Millennials that are easily recognised, maybe a little too harshly judged and good fun. There are scene-stealing lines, too, from younger sister Fatima, a role that Oznur Cifci makes her own, confirming Samal’s comedy skills.

The writing often shows an impressively light touch that director Tanuja Amarasuriya handles well and uses to counterpoise the play’s big themes. For, alongside considerations of race, immigration and class, it becomes clear that Zara’s problems aren’t just a clash of cultures. Some home truths from Alice’s boyfriend (a role that, like Zara’s father, falters compared to the women, despite the actors’ commendable efforts) leads to a homecoming that brings a focus on mental health issues. The plotting may not be sophisticated, the action is possibly rushed, but Samal’s leading characters are beautifully crafted and utterly engrossing.

Out of Sorts comes back to the conventional family – a traditionalism that Samal brings to sympathetic fruition in a detailed two-hander finale. Here’s a moving scene that gets the best out of Myriam Acharki as Zara’s mother, who shows hidden depths. It’s no surprise Samal is a performer herself – she’s written enviable roles that really sing. If the conclusion shows a cautious streak (and as a choice of competition winner the play itself is a conservative choice), Samal’s skills are clear. Remember that safe bets pay off.

Until 2 November 2019


Photo by Helen Murray

“Trap Street” at the New Diorama

This new work from Kandinsky Theatre is about homes, communities and the housing crisis in London. Issues such as the poor planning of estates, and the inaccessible pricing of new buildings in London, are all addressed with a sensibly even hand so that the debate is comprehensive and intelligent.

Unlike the homes we see on stage, the architecture of this theatrical piece is sound. Focusing on one estate, and one family who moved in when it felt like a utopia, is a good idea. The play goes back and forth in time effortlessly, as we come up to date to see the family’s daughter holding out for a better price from the land’s new developers – a topical scenario with plenty of emotive power. But as a devised piece the play’s construction runs into problems: too many plot lines are raised and left unexplored. The show could easily be expanded beyond its 80 minutes and should have been edited with a stricter hand by its co-writers James Yeatman and Lauren Mooney.

As for the delivery of the show, a trio of performers does very well indeed. Amelda Brown effortlessly portrays both mother and daughter as the play moves around in time. As the former, she shows a steely determination and wins sympathy trying to build a community, then, as the daughter she is excluded from the area due to gentrification. Danusia Samal and Hamish MacDougall take on a wider variety of roles and there’s some snagging – pretending to be a dog is an idea that should have been abandoned in the rehearsal room – but both acquit themselves admirably and again manage the change in attitudes over time superbly. What Kandinsky has built here is something to be proud of.

Until 31 March 2018


Photo by Richard Davenport

“B” at the Royal Court

In Guillermo Calderón’s new play, three terrorists debate their plans to use a bomb. To make the show theatrically explosive, the depressingly topical subject matter is delivered with risqué comedy. B needs handling with caution; the piece gives extra meaning to the term trigger warning.

The plotters are pretty hopeless, which provides plenty of twists. Danusia Samal plays Alejandra, who hopes her bombs don’t hurt and views her protest as a kind of art work. Samal achieves the near impossible in making such a character credible. Aimée-Ffion Edwards plays Marcela, whose slowly revealed death wish provides much needed pathos. Their bomb is obtained from an older agitator, a role Peter Kaye is refreshingly restrained in. The different views and generational divide amongst the trio provide the play’s weightier moments.

Trouble is, there doesn’t feel like a lot of insight here: terrorists are troubled people. Well, yes… The play’s Chilean origin could have provided new information for a UK audience but isn’t investigated explicitly. We are left with slim, rehearsed arguments for the indefensible – and these are neither stimulating nor challenging.

Managing to make this topic funny is so bold that dismissing the play altogether is impossible. There are some good giggles around using code words for the bomb and anarchist communities. And, translated by William Gregory, poetic streams of consciousness  and clever word association compensate for the play’s failings. Director Sam Pritchard is sympathetic to this strength and the cast deliver their lines well. Deserving special praise is Sarah Niles as a mysterious neighbour. This is the one character who gets more interesting as the play goes on. Niles’ off-beat delivery shows a committed appreciation of the text’s entertaining potential.

Calderón is keen on absurdities, his style of writing is exciting and this chance to see his work in London is welcome, but this subject matter deserves more substance than he delivers.

Until 21 October 2017


Photo by Helen Murray