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Playland at Empty Space Theatre Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. keyworthdavid@gmail.com https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83 My debut poetry pamphlet is available at www.wildpressedbooks.com/david-keyworth.html
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Rocky ride to redemption
How do you like to spend New Year's Eve? In Athol Fugard's play - first performed in Johannesburg in 1992 - two strangers spend it at the tacky splendour of a travelling amusement park called Playland.

Whether that would be their first choice is another question. Gideon Le Roux (Danny Solomon ) - a white ex-soldier fresh from the unreported Border War in Namibia - is determined to enjoy the last hours of 1989, in a desperate kind of way. Martinus Zoeloe (Faz Singhateh) is on duty - "I know how to watch the night and wait for trouble. That is my job."

Yvonne Bryceland, Danny Solomon, Jake Murray, Elysium Theatre Company, Queen's Hall Arts Centre Hexham, The Empty Space @ Footlights House, Media City, Athol Fugard, Playland, Faz Singhateh
Faz Singhateh and Danny Solomon. Photo: Victoria Wai Photography.


Both have their emotional backpacks of trauma that they carry and manage on an hour-to-hour basis. As Martinus studies the bible, Gideon rages against "Bullshit from the Dominees (church ministers)." He evangelises to Martinus to abandon religion and adopt his philosophy of living in the moment.

When Playland's lights go off, the mood darkens. Gideon provokes Martinus physically and emotionally and the brutal pasts of both men are revealed, like exposed bones in the desert.

Yvonne Bryceland, Danny Solomon, Jake Murray, Elysium Theatre Company, Queen's Hall Arts Centre Hexham, The Empty Space @ Footlights House, Media City, Athol Fugard, Playland, Faz Singhateh
Danny Solomon. Photo: Victoria Wai Photography.


These two are either going to kill each other or be the other's saviour.

This Elysium Theatre Company production reunites director Jake Murray with Danny Solomon and Faz Singhateh, who brought Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train to HOME in 2018. Playland shares many themes with that play - in particular, male pride, racial injustice and the vexed issue of redemption.

Both actors immerse themselves fully in their roles, which make this 90-minute two-hander - with Graham Eaglesham on the PA system - compelling from start to finish.

At The Empty Space @ Footlights House, with its folding chairs and unreliable electrics, any second-rate acting would have been cruelly spotlighted.

Athol Fugard's play brilliantly pre-empted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which South Africa would go through post-apartheid and other countries are yet to experience.

Yvonne Bryceland, Danny Solomon, Jake Murray, Elysium Theatre Company, Queen's Hall Arts Centre Hexham, The Empty Space @ Footlights House, Media City, Athol Fugard, Playland, Faz Singhateh
Faz Singhateh. Photo: Victoria Wai Photography.


It superbly distils that painful process into the volatile interaction between two men of different but equally harrowing backgrounds.

Playland is a drama which deserves a much bigger audience and is further confirmation that Manchester and Salford should keep a keen lookout for the Elysium Theatre Company's next production.

Yvonne Bryceland, Danny Solomon, Jake Murray, Elysium Theatre Company, Queen's Hall Arts Centre Hexham, The Empty Space @ Footlights House, Media City, Athol Fugard, Playland, Faz Singhateh
Danny Solomon and Faz Singhateh. Photo: Victoria Wai Photography


Having started the tour at The Exchange, North Shields, on 18 October, Elysium's last performance of Playland is at The Hullabaloo Space, Darlington on Sunday 3 November.

@ElysiumTc


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Why? Elysium Theatre Company leave us wanting more
When: Thursday 31 October - Saturday 2 November 2019
Phone: 0161 713 3026
Where: The Empty Space @ Footlights House, Media City
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