Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Provocative New Play On Racism
It struck me that although this provocative new play was based around the theme of what is "unsayable" in current times, a lot of the extreme comments made by some characters are what we've been hearing from politicians in recent months.
A unique stage is the setting for Fall Of The Kingdom, Rise Of The Foot Soldier
Faceless politicians appear in the storyline too but their suited bodies wear large cardboard boxes for heads, which actually makes them seem all the more aggressive and menacing.
Written by Somalia Seaton, who also wrote Crowning Glory, this is a new play for the RSC's Making Mischief Festival at The Other Place studio theatre in Stratford upon Avon.
A talented cast in a gripping play
Directed by Nadia Latif, the story examines the difference between patriotism and racism; what happens when you deny people a voice and the notion of Englishness.
At the centre of it is Black student activist Aisha - an excellent Donna Banya giving a powerful performance. Aisha has already been isolated at school due to a blog but has committed a violent crime before ending up on the doorstep of her female teacher Hawkins.
Laura Howard, who many will recognise from her role as Inspector Barnaby's daughter Cully in long-running British crime-mystery drama Midsomer Murders, plays Hawkins with a suitable amount of middle class angst and self-righteousness. Even from the start of the play, she is on edge from being constantly at odd with the views of her outspoken boyfriend Archie (Ifan Meredith).
The unusual stage is made up of cardboard boxes
As the story progresses, Hawkins apologises for him more and more, especially when he confronts Asian teacher Shabz over whose side she's on and how he feels unheard despite being the white majority.
Jumping back and forth between the past and present, the audience sees how Aisha's case becomes hijacked by local politicians, whose language quickly becomes more and more vitriolic. But as the plot carefully unfolds, there is also a deeper understanding of why Hawkins is so wracked with guilt over Aisha and it takes her teacher friend Shabz (Syreeta Kumar) to set her straight and face up to some uncomfortable truths.
The play is part of the RSC's Making Mischief Festival
I particularly liked how Seaton cleverly leaves the audience to fill in the gaps of situations that are touched on but not revealed in detail. It also puts weight on the importance of what's not said rather than what is - turning this play's theme of what's unsayable on its head.
Provocative and arresting, Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Foot Soldier is a well constructed, intelligent piece of work that you won't want to miss.
Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Foot Soldier Studio Theatre@The Other Place Stratford-upon-Avon
Until August 27 as part of the RSC's Making Mischief Festival.
Running time: 1 hr (no interval)
Tickets cost £15 from the RSC website or at the door.