Following the show titled Inside last month, this companion set of three short plays comes as the Richmond venue’s return to live theatre is announced. Starting with a couple of Bernard Shaw pieces, on the 22nd of May, an exciting year ahead is planned. It’s still a wait but at least this weekend you can show support for the venue online.
Two Billion Beats
First we go outside to a school playground. Sonali Bhattacharyya’s play has two young sisters, Asha and Bettina, discussing bullying and racism. Zainab Hasan and Ashna Rabheru are excellent in the roles. The quality of the writing is indicated by how vividly a teacher, Mrs L., who never appears, is depicted. With plenty of insight, this is a piece that leaves you wanting more. It’s a shame the production ran into technical difficulties towards the end.
An estranged son in Kalungi Ssebandeke’s play returns to encounter his sister, after his mother’s death, and the action takes place at the door of their family home. The drama arrives quickly and is effective. Expanding the action to a conflict over a life insurance policy has potential. A complex history of immigration is explored sensitively while issues of masculinity are also raised.
I wonder if Fiston Barek’s performance as the titular character might include more sinister touches? We’re told of anger and “a cartoon image of what a man is” but see mostly charm. Opposite him, Robinah Kironde does an excellent job: her character is hurt and frustrated in equal measure with touches of confusion.
Those technical hitches resulted in this piece, wisely, starting again at one point. And I should add that I’ve promptly been given the chance to see the shows again. But as if another reminder were needed, it does make you miss a real-life experience. Even looking at a safety curtain when there is a problem is better than a notice on a screen.
The evening concludes with a monologue from Zoe Cooper that looks at recent experiences. Getting to know the character of Lou, ably performed by Temi Wilkey, is a treat. Moving out of town, Lou and her partner end up struggling with life under lockdown. Getting to know the neighbours, taking up new hobbies and behaving…a little…strangely are all included. It is possible that The Kiss could be funnier. But Lou’s reassessment of her life and future goals will surely resonate with many. The show is full of detail and admirably low key, like all three pieces it illustrates fine work on the part of director Georgia Green.
Until 17 April 2021
Photos by Ali Wright