Writer: Arinze Kene
Director: Michael Buffong
Reviewer: Sarah Nutland
Talawa Theatre Company, Soho Theatre and The Albany present a new play by Arinze Kene; Gods Property.It’s Deptford, south London, 1984 and we join Chima as he enters his old family home to visit his mum and brother after an extended time away. The two mixed race brothers are strangers and the play charts the story of the terrible crime that Chima has been imprisoned for committing and the effect that’s had on his family and community.
Instantly the stakes are high as Ono returns to find his brother in the flat, who he mistakes for an intruder. The drama builds from here as the story gently unfolds. The writing is excellent, with the lyrical, punchy and witty language driving the piece along at a fantastic pace. Each character is well formed and on a clear journey, which gets neatly concluded. The only issue being the slightly unlikely language used at times by the younger characters, making the age gap between Chima and Ono slightly less convincing. The structure of the piece is strong with the enormity of what’s happened and the tragedy of it growing to an emotional crescendo. There is a perfect mix of comedy and tragedy, which also makes it more poignant and hard hitting. The play is open ended, leaving the audience to imagine what happens next, although it’s clear to see they won’t get out unscathed; if they get out at all. However, this does feel a little unsatisfying because of the way the final scene closes so abruptly.
The play wholeheartedly captures the racial tension and fear in Deptford in the eighties, especially shown through the forbidden love story between Ono and Holly (although that comes in to question later on). It’s also shown in the brothers themselves, with Chima embracing his Nigerian heritage and Ono desperately wanting to blend in with his white skin-head band mates.
The costume, hair, make-up and set really capture the essence of the time period, as does Jack C Arnold’s soundscape, adding to the completely immersive feel to the production and the performances given by the cast are superb. All of the characters are totally believable and lines are delivered with confidence and prowess. There is an exceptional performance energy that never dips, which is a credit to the actors, but also Michel Buffong’s careful direction.
The background to the play really resonates with what’s currently happening in society; unemployment is on the rise and people are rioting, making the piece feel fresh and very relevant.The drama hits you in the face (in a good way) from the beginning and whips you along through a tale of race, love, death, family and survival. It is quite simply brilliant!