Writer: Ambreen Razia
Director: Sophie Moniram
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Set in the world of London’s subculture, Ambreen Razia’s second play (after 2016’s Diary of a Hounslow Girl) focuses on Louisa, a 16-year-old girl who after years of ricocheting around the foster care system now lives with her drug-dealing boyfriend who rules over half of the local estate.
On this particular morning, Louisa (Sophia Leonie) wakes up on the sofa in a locked flat, with her boyfriend Josh nowhere to be seen – and is being looked after by Miles, a boy she doesn’t recognise, even though she knows everyone from the estate.
From the start of the play’s opening prologue, a monologue from Wahab Sheikh’s blood-soaked Josh that is almost Shakespearean in its intensity, Razia is intent on providing a fresh take on the lives of young people who find it impossible to escape gang culture.
Central to this is Leonie’s spirited performance as Louisa. Her increasing anxiety about whether she and her boyfriend have fallen foul of a rival dealer plays nicely against Gamba Cole’s chilled, sweetly humorous Miles. As the two converse about the reasons why Louisa feels scared, it emerges that she has done some terrible things: most recently a prolonged session of torture involving the rival dealer’s girlfriend.
Their good-natured interplay comes into sharp focus when Josh re-emerges, as Josh returns having not taken the prescription anti-psychotics he needs to stop himself from going ballistic. Sheikh’s wild-eyed intensity contrasts well with Cole’s good-natured charm. Under the direction of Sophie Moniram, each of the trio of actors walks the line of ambivalence, with characters that each have secrets, regrets and squandered potential.
Razia structures her play around a Capraesque opportunity for Louisa to turn her life around, to take the tenacity and sense of justice she displayed as a child into her adult life. There are elements of the supernatural in such an approach that, at times, ploughs furrows that have been dug many times before.
That POT still works is largely down to Cole’s performance, a hesitant clown whose good-natured heart contains slivers of ice, and some acutely observed writing.
Continues until September 29, then touring.
Image: Suzi Corker