DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Airplays – The Venue, Leeds College of Music

Music: The Northern Contemporary Collective

Director: Kash Arshad

Writers: Kamal Kaan, Chris O’Connor, Emma Barnes, Gemma Bedeau

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Airplays is a response to the theme of migration in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the landing of the Empire Windrush. It showcases four brand new 15-minute radio dramas by Yorkshire based writers. It is seen live on stage at Leeds College of Music ahead of being broadcast across BBC Radio Leeds and is co-produced by Leeds Playhouse.

In A Piece of Home by Emma Barnes, Agata (played with an impeccable Polish accent by Susan Twist) is a cleaner at Mr Rubin’s luxurious house. She tells her daughter Sarah (the irrepressible Alyce Liburd) not to leave the kitchen. But this is like pulling out a red rag before a bull and she explores down the corridor to the lounge where she finds a grand piano. When her mother finds out about her mischief at first she is angry. But then she is persuaded to play some Chopin only to be in turn found out by Mr Rubin. No spoilers here, but suffice to say there are skeletons in the cupboard that come out to play. All’s well that ends well though.

Soon Come by Gemma Bedeau sees Angela (Elexi Walker) on the phone to Carriacou (an island located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea) where her sister Betty (Flo Wilson) has stayed behind. She is seeking advice on how to cook for a large party, which brings back memories of how their mother had managed it in the past. There is some cheeky humour in the delightful piece.

Exodus by Chris O’Connor is a post-apocalyptic nightmare, where a Leeds family have to make tough decisions. They are reacting to the fact that whole cities are being taken out in a nuclear war. Ultimately, when they are offered to be taken to safety there is only room for two of the four of them. So who gets in the boat? It could be argued that this doesn’t seem that far away with Trump in power…

In On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring by Kamal Kaan, Songbird is being grilled by Minister to decide whether she will be accepted or not as a British citizen. It is a very poetic piece with a terrific performance by Flo Wilson as an outsider that is impassioned and incisive.

Fabulous music for each of the plays is performed live by the highly talented Leeds College of Music alumni. We also see the production of sound effects often to much hilarity. Director Kash Arshad is currently Trainee Artistic Director at Freedom Studios in Bradford. He really brings out the best of this powerfully moving writing without melodrama. Throughout there is a kind of simmering anger but this is not agitprop, more simply giving a voice to the players in this particular part of international history, normally left in silence.

Runs until 27 October 2018 | Image: David Lindsay

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