Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Torn

Femi Oguns
Arcola Theatre
(2008)

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It’s a Friday night and the place is packed with trendy, sexy black teenagers who have foregone the normal night thing to sit in a theatre. And their time isn’t wasted. From the word ‘go’ they’re watching such spot on characters from a Black-British upbringing that the atmosphere flips from night-club to stand-up. And it isn’t just the kids: three traditionally dressed Nigerian women were wiping tears from their eyes, watching actors hen-peck, rant and put the world (and everyone in it) to rights.

It’s because of plays like this, that the Arcola is exuding the current vibe of über-cool.

Blaring hip-hop, a graffiti-bedecked underpass and circular seating so when you cross the stage, it feels like you’re on a nightclub’s dance-floor.

Torn was is fun, funky and perfectly done: slick directing, fabulous lighting and faultless acting. Femi Oguns (writer) had written real, recognisable characters and actors had snapped them up and, you could see, enjoyed every line.

I didn’t get all the jokes, I certainly didn’t always know what they were saying because of the thick accents but very quickly, I got into the fact that for once, I was the minority and while I did often laugh, I wasn’t laughing like the Jamaican guy next to me. After all, I wasn’t the one looking at a character reminded of my Aunt, my food and my heritage.

So in the interval, I asked the kids – is it authentic? D’you relate to the Nigerian family and the Jamaican one? (the plot is basically a love-story between two ‘black’ youths one from Africa and the other from the West Indies and the grief they get about it from their respective families) and they told me yes; my Aunt is just like ‘x’, my older brother is like ‘y’ and even at school, one girl said, the Jamaicans and Nigerians sit other sides in the dining hall and make each other laugh by chucking semi-humorous abuse at each other.

This is a unique experience that falls somewhere between theatre, stand-up and nightclub and for that reason – alongside many others, I recommend it.

Until 2nd August

Reviewer: Zia Trench