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Perseverance Drive

Published 11 July 2014

What’s it all about?

One family, both divided and unified by an evangelical Christian faith. Opening in Barbados, where the estranged unit have come together to plan the funeral of Grace, Eli’s wife and the mother of his sons Nathan, Joshua and Zek, the heat may be scorching hot, but everyone is being frozen out by someone.

While model daughter-in-law Ruth puts on a smile and plays dutiful carer to all, tensions rise as the group dynamics blaze in a fiery clash of generations and culture.

Judgements are passed and new cracks are torn open, but when the family returns to Leytonstone and the divided sons’ rise through the ranks of the church escalates, an unlikely partnership between Joshua and Eli leads to unexpected healing and revelation.

Who’s in it?

Madani Younis’ well-paced production brings together an impressive ensemble with Leo Wringer as patriarch Eli taking his place at the head of the table. First introduced as an overbearingly stern, scathing and dogmatic presence, Wringer’s multifaceted performance makes for compulsive viewing as the vulnerability of old age opens his mind to choices and roads he never thought possible to take.

Frances Ashman is brilliant as the silently suffering Ruth and Akiya Henry suitably unlikeable as her passive aggressive and ultimately misguided sister-in-law Joylene. Derek Ezenagu and Kolade Agboke are powerful presences as their husbands Nathan and Zek respectively; battling one another for the place of best minister, best son, best Christian. But it is Joshua who quietly rises as the family’s voice of reason and measure, and Clint Dyer, for my money, steals the show with a witty, touching and nuanced performance in the role of the near-exiled gay son.

What should I look out for?

Bubbling illicit chemistry between characters, the fallout when you drop the f-bomb in church and stunning Gospel music that brings the emotive gravitas of a church to the Bush Theatre’s intimate space.

In a nutshell?

Robin Soans’ subtle drama is a compelling and deftly crafted thing of beauty; balancing its often damning analysis of zealous faith with religiously symbolic moments that left me close to tears.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@caroloncq An evening of *beautiful* acting in Perseverance Drive at @bushtheatre. Nuanced, delicately drawn characters. Full rich feast of a play.

@RAWeiseArtist Big up my family @bushtheatre #perseverancedrive is a must see!!!

Will I like it?

If you can bear the tension, then yes. Soans has broken away from his usual verbatim style to create a far more traditional family drama, but its insightful look at complex relationships and attachment to religion rival that of any documentary play.

Perseverance Drive is playing until 16 August. You can book tickets through the Bush Theatre website.

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