When the first actor on stage claims that she is the playwright, I had to check my programme to make sure this wasn’t an actor portraying the writer. But, it wasn’t. In this new play by Alecky Bkythe, Alecky Blythe plays ALecky Blythe. And not only has she written another successful stage play (after her very successful London Road for the National Theatre) but she has brought to life the riots of London 2011.
The Almeida has been transformed as never before and looks more like the Arcola on a good day than the Islington venue normally. Actors mingle in the auditorium before the play begins and you are never sure as the drama unfolds as to who will rise up next and recite a line. As with other verbatim play, the actors speak real people’s words but the art resides in putting it all together into a cohesive whole that will impart meaning and create drama. You cannot but help to like Ms Blythe on stage. With her small frame and petite demeanour, only a fool would not be concerned for her safety as she went about witnessing and recording the riots of 2011.
Ms Blythe has brought together a number of voices from the community in a way that was totally new for me and extremely moving. Of course, she has milked some very funny characters such as the BBC documentary maker (Rufus Wright), Tony and Sarah (Michael Shaeffer and Imogen Stubbs) as the flower power lefty do gooders and the duo Jane and Sadie (Ronni Ancona and Melanie Ash) as the upper middle class Hackney living snobs. But the play is so much more than that and brings to the fore, the issues of race, class, police profiling, community and violence among this melting pot of nationalities, cultures, traditions and general poverty.
The play is fast paced at 1.40 minutes and delivers a powerful punch line from the local barber Colin (Lucian Msamati). It is modern, lively and above all else timely. Bravo!