Park Theatre (90)
This is almost two plays. In the first half, we have the dilemma of a politician who has promised a character witness for his lover’s brother-in-law who has been charged with murder. In the second, we see the circumstances of that killing.
Politician David (played by the author, stepping in for an unavailable actor) has already received damaging media attention over his relationship with television personality Samiya (Avita Jay). He is refusing to stay over after a dinner party for fear of paparazzi in the morning.
More importantly for Samiya, he has not told her that he is backing out of this promise in case his link with a murder should damage himself and his party. With the arrival of Ash, the brother-in-law, this comes into the open.
Ash’s wife and Samiya’s sister was murdered in Ash’s corner shop and he is accused of shooting her killer. He claims he didn’t. Although he had possession of the gun, it was killer Eddie who committed suicide by grabbing hold and pressing his finger on the trigger.
On the one hand, we have a picture of political expediency, but also there is a doubt in David’s mind. If you’d just seen your wife murdered and, full of anger and grief, you had the person responsible at gunpoint, what would you do? David knows that he would have shot him.
While you might think that in those circumstances David had even more duty to stand up for Ash, he sees it as just being even more potentially damaging personally. Not surprisingly perhaps when you know that he even prevented Samiya from attending her sister‘s funeral because of media attention—though arguing that, because of her TV celebrity, it would have caused a media intrusion that would have intruded on family mourning.
David and Samiya’s relationship offers the problems of having your private life in the public eye, which is an interesting topic but Tracey’s script doesn’t really explore it or tell enough about them, concentrating on the political expediency and its effect on increasingly fraught Ash (Omar Ibrahim).
While all three present strong performances, with Ash grabbing audience sympathy, Jay gets little chance to make sense of her relationship before having to concentrate on the devoted sister aspect of the situation. As a stand-alone play, there is a lot that could be developed here.
But it does not stand alone. It acts rather as a retro-prologue to the tensely dramatic second half, which is introduced by the sound of a tube train and a station announcement. If it hasn’t quite registered in the first act, Ash is a Moslem. The man he has killed is an old friend from his young days, before he became religious, whose wife was a victim of the 7/7 London bombings.
While London has moved on from those events, though perhaps with a greater watchfulness, there are those who experienced them or whose loved ones were victims who find that more difficult. Old friend Eddie is one of them.
We know the outcome of this second act encounter, but that doesn’t stop it from being dramatically gripping and it is performed to the hilt by Ibrahim, Maya Saroya as his wife Yasmeenah and in a splendidly bravura and pain-filled performance by Shane Noone as Eddie.
Warde Street had a highly acclaimed outing at the Tristan Bates Theatre in 2013. In this new production, directed by Jenny Eastrop, it remains deeply disturbing. A salutary reminder that such wounds take a long time to heal for, as Eddie, speaking as an Irishman, puts it: “we never forget”.
It is an ominous observation that reflects the whole history of ethnic and religious conflict, of people seeking revenge but calling it justice. But who are you to blame them if such tragedies haven’t touched you?
Reviewer: Howard Loxton