StageScan Pick: The Convert

The Convert at the Gate Theatre received 4-star average pro reviews. Alice Saville (Time Out) hailed Danai Gurira’s “astonishing” play. Natasha Tripney (The Stage) observed “a twisted reworking of Pygmalion” as “A man reshapes a young girl, putting words in her mouth and ideas in her head” within a “richly written play about the complexities of colonialism and impact of the Church on African identity”. Matt Trueman (What’s On Stage) found “viewing colonialism through the prism of Christianity… instructive” and praised its “keen consideration of cultural change”.

Tripney observed “a linguistic richness to the writing” and Saville, who thought it “brilliantly textured” found her “meticulously researched use of mangled Queen’s English or animist rituals” felt “natural, not exoticised or laughable”. Tripney admired the way it “never feels like a lesson.” Saville, noting that Gurira “never shows us the white settlers,” admired “its skill” in nevertheless “showing us how seamlessly their cultural norms impose themselves”.

Trueman found Christopher Haydon’s production “exerts a quiet power as it starts to grip,” Saville found the whole “lip-chewingly tense” and Tripney hailed his “striking and memorable directorial swansong” at the Gate. Trueman praised the set: “A concrete floor that, once in place, changes the landscape for good and, behind it, a mound of displaced earth”.

Most felt the main strength of the piece was its characters. Tripney found “all vividly drawn” and Trueman hailed “fine, focused performances”. Tripney thought Jekesai “wonderfully rich… a symbol of a people pulled asunder but also a rounded human being” and the last image of her “incredibly powerful”. She found Mimi Ndiweni “a radiant presence” who “seems to grow in stature and strength as the play progresses” and Saville praised a “lively, nuanced” performance.

Saville also highlighted Joan Iyiola’s “wonderfully funny, sharp” Prudence and Tripney found her “fascinating… a proud, poised woman, independent of mind” whose despair at Jakesai’s passivity is “haunting to watch”.  Trueman said Stefan Adegbola “corsets himself with courtly manners and Christian ways” as Chilford, and felt Michael Ajao “conveys the anguish of a rebel as jealous as he is righteous,” hailing “strong support” generally.

Saville was “left a bit breathless, a bit startled, a bit in awe at how one play can hold so many contradictions in balance” as Gurira “clears the way for faith (of any kind) to be a guiding light through, as well as the cause of, all this mess”. Tripney summed up an “impressive and ambitious piece of writing” which “continually avoids moral simplification” and “deals with its subject with delicacy, intelligence and nuance”.

Runs to 11 Feb 2017, with some tickets still available from the Gate.
We also have tickets for some previous StageScan Picks including This House, School of Rock and the transfer of Travesties.

 

 

 

StageScan Pick: BU21

BU21 has received a solid four-star reception from pro critics on transferring to Trafalgar Studios (after a 4.5-star premiere at Theatre503). Among the new reviewers, Paul Taylor (The Independent) hailed Stuart Slade’s “wily, bracing play” which “explores how six millennials are affected by a terrorist outrage”. Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out) found it “smart, cynical” as it it examines “its characters’ flaws and their ability to squander the basic nobility afforded by surviving a terrible tragedy”. Fiona Mountford (Evening Standard) acknowledged “the glummest set-up” but found “six close-up, compelling and often blackly comic stories”. She hailed its “refreshing… unpretentious humanity” and “quiet insistence that the life instinct in us is ferociously strong”.

Michael Billington (The Guardian) thought it “extraordinary” and saw it suggest that, in a city “full of deep divisions of class, income and religion… any external threat fosters a bogus solidarity.” Lukowski  said it “homes in on these people’s lives – and doesn’t like what it sees”. Billington particularly admired it for being “unafraid to provoke wild laughter in the face of death” and Taylor reported “calculated audacity” although found the whole “occasionally.. too relentlessly self-aware”.  He found “amoral Alex… teasingly complicit with what he regards as the audience’s voyeurism” and Billington thought this character’s asides to the audience add “zest and brio”.  Lukowski agreed the play “threatens to overplay its provocations” but thought it saved by “a bristling, pugilistic hunger, a raucous sense of humour and a refusal to be satisfied with itself”.

Mountford praised Dan Pick’s “fluid production” and Taylor found it “tonally adroit” balancing “cynical knowingness with finely captured feeling”. Billington found the set’s “plastic chairs and strip lighting” reinforced “the feeling that we are watching an authentic group confessional”.

Taylor thought it “excellently acted” and Mountford praised “six fine performances that tread the tonal tightrope impeccably”. Billington saw them all “highlight the way crisis breeds a strange mix of selfishness, grief, resilience and opportunism”. Taylor saw Alex “played with reprehensible charm” by Alexander Forsyth and thought Graham O’Mara “spot-on… welling sentiment that queasily conjoins London pride and unreconstructed racism”. He found Roxana Lupu ”exudes quiet moral authority as the horribly burned Ana”. Mountford highlighted Florence Roberts for a performance with “an unmistakable sprinkle of stardust”.

Billington admired “a play that questions our assumptions about collective heroism and makes fascinating drama out of personal trauma”. Mountford summed up “an accomplished piece”, “constantly sparky” that “delights in surprising and wrong-footing us”. Lukowski, suggesting it’s “clear that Slade loves his characters: shits that they are, he makes us understand them all”, hailed “a genuinely fascinating new voice”. Taylor reported “disarming frankness” to “take your breath away with the depth of its moral challenge” and “candour” which “can make you gasp with uneasy laughter” concluding: “Strongly recommended”.

Runs to 18 Feb 2017 with some tickets still available from ATG.

And for more fine contemporary writing brilliantly executed, there’s still time to catch 4.5* This House, or why not try Don Juan in Soho?