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Stop and Search

Gabriel Gbadamosi
Arcola Theatre and Maya Ellis
Arcola Theatre (Studio 1)

Tel (Shaun Mason) and Akim (Munashe Chirisa) Credit: Idil Sukan
Tone (David Kirkbride) and Lee (Tyler Luke Cunningham) Credit: Idil Sukan
Bev (Jessye Romeo) Credit: Idil Sukan

Gabriel Gbadamosi’s play in three scenes has the tense mystery of a thriller, each of its characters edgy over some part of their personal history and potential vulnerability.

It touches on the plight of refugees, the brutal corruption of police, the abuse of women and the stigmatisation of transgendered individuals in the workplace.

Although these issues are never really explored, they are key to the way we see the characters, their anxieties and their paranoia.

The most effective scene is the first in which a white male, Tel (Shaun Mason), on too little sleep is driving furiously to Britain across mainland Europe. To help keep him awake, he picks up the hitchhiker Akim (Munashe Chirisa) who is probably a migrant trying to evade immigration controls.

Tel is manic; the things he says lurch from one subject to another and include his suspicions about the faithfulness of his girlfriend, Bev.

Akim mostly listens, trying to keep Tel from accidentally crashing the car and in response to questions talks briefly about the death of his wife and children.

The following scene takes us to a police stake-out in Shooters Hill, where two plain-clothes police officers with concealed weapons stand alone near their car, waiting for the arrival of a suspected criminal. Increasingly, they become suspicious of each other.

The corrupt and dangerous Tone (David Kirkbride) thinks Lee has been sent to check up on him. Lee (Tyler Luke Cunningham) begins to wonder if his superiors have told him the truth about his assignment.

In the final scene, Akim is working as a taxi driver in London. Late in the evening, Bev (Jessye Romeo) gets into the back of his vehicle and asks to be taken to a lonely bridge. On her mind are worries about a corrupt policeman.

The play is bleak, a constant sense of danger hanging over its characters. Yet those characters never really come to life. A deliberate stylistic artificiality of the language adds to the confusion and is at times off-putting.

Each scene does hold your attention even as you ponder its purpose and scratch your head at some of the strange phrasing.

We are left wishing the writing had been clearer in its expression and wondering if there had been any real point in the play raising so many important issues.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna