Writer: John Retallack
Director: Elise Davison
Reviewer: Lauren Anders
Set in pre-millennium Margate, writer John Retallack places his audience directly in the middle of a race war. Hannah is 16, feisty and Margate born and bred where as Hanna is 16, equally feisty and a Kosovon asylum seeker. In this narrow-minded town it is survival of the fittest and its British residents are determined to put that thesis to the test. Hannah (Amy Griggs) is initially mortified that yet another family have invaded her town and she has no qualms with making it known, especially when Hanna (Chloe Clarke) tries to join in with Hannah at the local karaoke night. In a very well acted scene the audience instantly feels for poor Hanna who only wants to make friends and escape her troubled past. The two form an unlikely allegiance when Hanna’s younger brother is beaten and Hannah helps him home.
Griggs and Clarke have created a very strong rapport; the way that they react to one another’s pain is truly touching. Both actresses clearly have a lot of fun on stage. This is very important as it puts the audience at ease in between the intense anti-racial show downs. Both actresses stay in character from the moment that the audience enters the theatre and deliver strong vocal and physical performances. Griggs is particularly watchable and delivers a strong amount of flair. Initially her character is incredibly confident and quite exaggerated, especially in the karaoke scenes, however her flair becomes even more apparent after she becomes house bound and incredibly subdued due to an attack. The only negative comment that can be made is her slips in dialect.
With the staging consisting of a fence and 4 black boxes, this production can in no way be described as visually exciting. The cast try at various points to re-set the scene by moving the boxes, however generally that makes little difference and has somewhat of a pointless feel. The costumes however, tracksuits, denim jackets and hoop earrings scream 90’s and really help to transport the audience back to that era.
The music also takes the audience back with music from Natalie Imbruglia, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. The effectiveness of the music is somewhat hit and miss, at times it can be confusing. In one scene in particular, Hannah is talking about going out and a 90’s club track is played along with some green flashing lights, the audience instantly gets the impression that the youngsters are out clubbing, when in fact, they are just in a field. The play is unexpectedly musical, with a series of duets (of well known songs) showing the growing relationships between the two girls. The venue is incredibly intimate and helps the audience to feel part of the girls’ growing relationship.
This production would greatly benefit from some scenery and a little more thought to music and sound. The story is somewhat of a stereotype in that the immigrants typically arrive in a lorry, therefore the writing could benefit from some more research in that sense. However, due to the strong performances from the actors, despite its apparent low budget, this is still an enjoyable night out that does get to the heart of prejudice issues and leaves the audience with something to think about.
Runs until 5th February 2014.