Brassic FM

Co-created by Zia Armed and Stef O’Driscoll
Gate Theatre
Theatro Technis, Camden

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Brassic FM

The restless political montage of Brassic FM angrily flits between the decades and the moments of injustice inflicted on its numerous characters.

The urgent voice of the actor Jonny Britcher as the key Brassic radio host provides the loose link between the scenes, sometimes commenting in short lyrical passages and occasionally giving “a shout out” to those we care about.

We meet low-paid food workers, an asylum seeker enduring legal restrictions and a punk singer who wants a job. There is also a visit from someone in a Thatcher mask who says, “There is no such thing as society.”

The 1992 Castlemorton Common free festival of New Age Travellers and ravers on one of the remaining large pieces of public land is recalled in terms of the way it was persecuted. One scene compares the deeply prejudiced reaction of officials to this event, including the ridiculous 1994 law banning unauthorised gatherings that included music “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”, with the recent vagaries of the edicts against protest noise.

In both cases, it is left to the police to decide what counts as repetitive beats or irritating noise. Of course, they might decide to come down on the gun salute to the King, the Edinburgh Tattoo and those regular climate polluters at the military air shows, but I doubt it.

The show also finds echoes of recent cruelties against asylum seekers in the horrific 1970s practice of physically checking the virginity of women from India who were arriving in England to marry.

A more complete picture of a woman of South Asian heritage emerges from the dramatisation throughout the play of clips from the tape recordings that the factory worker Amina (Zainab Hasan) finds were sent between her mother and a man (Zakiyyah Deen) in another country. These are derived from the archive Tape Letters project collection of Modus Arts and the conversations of cast and creatives with Wajid Yaseen.

The tapes chronicle the special affection between two people doomed by legal restrictions. They also chart the regular incidents of racism experienced by Amina’s mother, such as the destruction by the Metropolitan Police of a music centre (they were bothered by those repetitive beats) and a firecracker pushed through her door by white youths.

Although the hundred-and-fifty-minute performance never loses sight of the seriousness of the issues being shown, it also finds plenty of opportunities to make the audience laugh.

Unfortunately, the fragmentary nature of the theatrical montage does lack a solid narrative structure that might give us a journey rather than a collection of interesting snippets of our history along with sections that were hard to follow and occasional bits, such as the two-minute mention of Palestinians, which I had no objections to beyond wondering what connection it had to anything else.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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