Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Fresh & Funny Despite Terrorism Topic
Playwright Fraser Grace has already received acclaim for the award-winning Breakfast with Mugabe and The Lifesavers, so the writer seems an apt choice to deliver a contemporary piece of work on what's unsayable in current times.
Not afraid to set a cat among the swans at leafy Stratford upon Avon, Grace's offering to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for its Making Mischief Festival is this new play Always Orange.
At just over an hour and based in a London recovering from a terrorist attack, the production fits the festival bill as it does make for uncomfortable and challenging viewing at times.
It's extremely relevant as it reflects the current anxieties and cultural tensions, and it doesn't shy away from looking at how some studious teenagers are able to be manipulated and transformed into becoming suicide bombers within the communities they have lived all their lives.
If anything, it jangles the nerves because it's so realistic and with that also comes the slightly depressing nature of such an issue.
Ifan Meredith as Joe and Syreeta Kumar as Rusha in Always Orange
Performed in the intimate new Other Place studio theatre, there is relief from the gloom with bursts of humour. The scene in which schoolteacher Rusha (an excellent Syreeta Kumar) is having a mini breakdown over modern languages being cut from the curriculum is particularly funny and full of energy.
For alongside the taboo subjects of terrorism and extremism, Grace has also thrown in other 'unsayable' elements in modern life, like the worst of the swear words, a rant about how good libraries are and a teacher who says and does everything she shouldn't with her pupils when emphasising why it's so terrible that languages are being eradicated from schools. There's plenty of murmurs of approval from the audience during that section.
Put together seamlessly, the drama moves between characters, who are weaved together through an attention-grabbing plot. There's even a nice touch that books and a reading library play an unusual part in saving someone's life too.
At the heart of the story is city worker Joe whose battling to get over his involvement in a terrorist attack. Jumping from the past to present, the change of outfits are cleverly dropped on stage in parcels as the stage slowly becomes more and more dishevelled with papers. It becomes so messy, it looks like a bomb hit it, but then I think that's the point.
Ifan Meredith is a likeable, ernest Joe among a small but strong cast. Actor Tyrone Huggins appears late in the action but steals the show as a smiling preacher with a menacing undercurrent. It's a pivotal role in addressing how terrorists are created and Huggins plays it with panache.
This new play is sure to gain Grace more acclaim as it feels fresh and flows with multi-layered characters and depth while tackling a difficult, very current topic that evokes so much emotion in light of constant terrorist attacks in recent years. It's a highlight of the Making Mischief Festival.
Always Orange The Other Place Studio Theatre
Various dates during the Making Mischief Festival until August 27.