It’s tempting to imagine that when it comes to new writing, talent will out. Writers will always write, bold new voices will always bubble to the surface and theatres will always snatch them up. The reality of course involves far more legwork; hard graft that companies like ANGLE take on.
Scouring six West London boroughs, with 30,000 flyers in hand, Angle found a host of new plays, two of which have made it to the Bush.
The resulting 45-minute double bill, intelligently blended by Blanche McIntyre’s direction and Dick Bird’s design, has a polished rawness to it.
The first, Mediah Ahmed’s Repentance, gives us 10 snippets of a teenager’s life as she tries to balance her faith, desires and multicultural influences. Each micro scene is played behind a paper wall, holes ripped through it scene by scene, the actors variously obscured.
It’s a story that could easily descend into cliché but Ahmed never lets it. Her central character is neither a closet atheist nor blinded by her faith; she’s an intelligent, curious girl who loves her faith as much as her non-Muslim boyfriend. Her life is a “tug of war” precisely because the conflicting elements of her life are all so important to her.
This well-roundedness makes her character hugely relatable and when she sits at her mother’s feet to tell her she has “sinned” there’s something deeply universal – though the consequences may be severe and the language alien, she’s also just a daughter admitting that something in her life has gone wrong.
The second, Neil Daley’s Behind The Lines, centres around a stabbing in a rundown area of London. The audience stand around the crime scene as passers by stop, stare and get caught up in events. The audience are at times bystanders and at others hidden observers and you could argue the play might have been better served by picking one or the other. Importantly though, Daley’s play gives us a nuanced look at what is often a simplified issue.
There’s a sense that the demonisation of the press, with its “headlines and stories that are ready to go”, bottles people in, but equally, he argues, postcode territories are partly self-imposed prisons and when Darren (the excellent Daniel Anthony) gets embroiled with the police, his actions are not excused.
Though neither Repentance nor Behind The Lines may be perfect gems, they’re both well worth catching.