Soho Theatre, London
Star rating: 4/5
This new play by young playwright Michael Bhim revolves around Simon, his wife Marsha and son Anthony who live in a small council flat in Deptford, writes Gus Levy.
We enter the drama to find a loving relationship distorted by the pressures of unemployment and debt. Simon, a loving father and husband played by Clarence Smith, has recently been sacked after 15 years as a bus driver.
We watch as Marsha, the practical and moral guide played by Golda Rosheuvel, becomes the butt of Simon’s frustrations, along with Anthony and friendly neighbour George, played by Leonard Fenton.
Simon is the victim of racism and real difficulties seeking employment, but his problems are exaggerated by his low self-esteem and blinkered aspirations. This pushes him into the temptation of a quick buck, offered by his cousin Paul – a move that further alienates him from his family.
Paul is bad but charismatic a stereotype, but a well-written role excellently acted by Mark Monero. His entrance lightens the mood, distracting us from the all too realistic focus on family tensions with his slick style and dark humour.
Bhim captures well the lack of control which is the usual experience of a young child in a family. Louis Ekoku, very believable as Anthony, is not included in his parents’ problems or concerns but is certainly exposed to the emotional tension and outbursts which they elicit. He is most likely aware of a lot more than his parents would like him to know, yet is unable to share his thoughts or feelings with them. On a number of occasions he is used by his father as a pawn in arguments with Marsha. The plausibility of these scenes makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Anthony feels pressure at school and from peers. Simon’s aspirations for his son have seen him sent him to a good school some way from home. We hear that Anthony enjoys the musical influences he is exposed to. But he has also become keenly aware and ashamed of his family’s relative poverty in comparison to the lifestyles of his more comfortably off classmates.
The play is an impressive, emotive and believable view of inner-city London life. It raises more issues than can be dealt with in this short review. I would certainly recommend going to see it if it comes to a theatre near you.
Gus Levy is a volunteer with charity Chance UK and mentor to an eight-year-old boy