Tash Fairbanks and Toby Wharton
AGF Productions in association with Neil McPherson
The Fog of the title could be what surrounds seventeen-year-old Gary, the directionless young man at the centre of this play, but it is in fact his street name. He is the product of ten years of council care, placed there with his sister after his mother died, his dad a serving soldier.
Now father Cannon is demobilised (returning, one assumes, from the Middle East) and trying to put his family back together. Father and son are moving into a council flat, top floor of a tower block with views across the estate and over London. Connor, who thinks his country owes him “big time”, is going to have trouble adjusting to civilian life while Fog, happy to be out of institutional life with a dad who wants to please him, thinks life’s going to be marvellous. The stained and crumbling concrete and stark, bare bulb of Georgia Lowe’s set provide a more telling image of their prospects.
Michael, Fog’s best mate and perhaps his only friend, he has known since childhood but Michael’s done well at school. Though they still share a spliff Michael is ready to move on, pushed by Bernice, his ambitious sister, he is going to university. Emphasising the contrast this aspirational couple are black and Fog, who fantasises a lucrative future as a drug baron, is a white boy with a black London vocabulary and accent.
Fog tells his dad his sister Lou has gone, she’s abroad, out of touch. In fact she left care at eighteen to set up her own flat, intending Fog to live with her, but caught up in drugs she’s been in prison. It is Fog who has cut her off; now she returns but he doesn’t want her getting in on his relationship with his father.
There is plenty here that reflects contemporary problems, but it is the relationship between father and son that is at the heart of the piece. It’s a relationship with a background of domestic violence, and in one fiercely-played scene, watching boxing on television leads to a teaching bout with savage results. Not only are they separated by a generation gap but Fog lives in an alien world of plasma TVs and Big Brother and speaks a different language, his world of grime and MCs is beyond Cannon’s comprehension.
The writers have an ear for language that captures Cannon’s more cockney London and the youngsters’ street talk with brilliant accuracy, yet keeping it penetrable for audiences unfamiliar with its vocabulary. Ché Walker’s gripping production strips things to their bare bones and formalises the scene transitions with staccato lighting effects and harsh music that emphasise the reality of the playing. Toby Wharton and Victor Gardener are outstanding as Fog and Cannon, totally convincing, with Benjamin Cawley’s gentle Michael in the same class and strong performances from Kanga Tanikya-Bush and Annie Hemingway as Bernice and Lou.
There is a surprising story behind its writing, for it had its origin in material written as a piece for Toby Wharton’s audition for RADA which Tash Fairbanks helped him prepare for. An unlikely sounding combination between a young man in his twenties who’d been a teenage grime MC and a sixty-year-old established actress and playwright who was his mother’s lesbian feminist partner has produced a great success. This is a play that raises far more issues than it can explore in ninety minutes but it makes a stimulating, satisfying and stunning evening in the theatre.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton