Merryville

Dominic Garfield and Gerel Falconer
A Highrise and CPR Co-production
Camden People's Theatre

Gerel Falconer as Dustin Roads and Dominic Garfield as Dr Green Fingers Credit: Dominic Garfield

It is 2020 and Merryville is a housing block, the very last “affordable” place in London, at least until the landlord gets the law to throw us out.

The rent is only £19,000 down in the basement where peeling wallpaper is laid on peeling wallpaper, there is a constant smell of piss and rats roam freely. Camden People’s Theatre isn’t a basement but its black-walled studio would be sufficiently gloomy were it not cheered up by the bright bulbs that fringe a big Union flag inscribed “Merryville It's for Real.”

We’re there for what is described as “a grime concept concert” and that’s exactly what the show delivers: high energy, high speed and high volume. Dr Green Fingers (Dominic Garfield) and Dustin Roads (Gerel Falconer) are the entertainers and they come in bursting with energy and eager to entertain the audience secretly and probably illegally gathered in their pad, for they’re subject to a ban than stops them from performing or even speaking in public.

They were doing their stuff at Speaker’s Corner when the RCU (Riot Control Unit) turned up, read the truth they told as threats of violence and slung them in the back of their black van and smacked a public order on them, but that’s not going to stop them giving us their story and offer their take on the current situation.

They trace the problem back to 1988 and Margaret Thatcher (their political appraisal is simplistic) and track through some key moments in the thirty years since, like 2016’s Brexit vote to Mayor Zac Goldsmith countering demands for change with the truism “you can’t get change if you don’t have cash,” then through taxation increasing to 32.5% on income and a new Ethnic Taxes and an Air Tax for just breathing to a lively number about what’s gone up (prices) and what’s gone down (benefits) to Question Time conflicts in the Commons between May and Corbyn, followed by speculation about what’s happened to them.

Meanwhile, people are becoming economic migrants up to Scotland (which seems to have spread south to Norwich), Russell Brand is touted to lead the Labour Party to recovery and Farage and Trump seem to be forming a coalition. Kanye West is in there somewhere—we're told too fast to know quite where.

With the help of repetition, you can get the gist of what they’re saying but if there is sharp, specific satire I missed it. Falconer especially is too often too difficult to comprehend, but the rhythm and energy are great and these are both born performers.

The Doctor and Mr Roads have been ignoring eviction orders but now the police seem to be outside. The pair give us their Grime Manifesto before going out to face them, capping an hour of lively entertainment that owes much to the beats contributed by Oliver ‘Row.d Beats’ Reed, Duncan ‘Skeng Daddy’ Burton and Simon ‘Dramatics’ Revel.

Director Oliver Tunstall has fine-tuned the timing and even if Grime is not your thing this is a non-stop hour plus of fun and a chance to let off political steam though lacking any real polemic.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton