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Torn

Published 14 September 2016

What’s it all about?

The family reunion from hell. Set years after an unspecified, but evidently still festering, event tears apart a family whose lives are intricately connected, the youngest sibling, Angel, calls her extended relatives into a threadbare hall, seats them in a circle of chairs, locks the door – and demands that the truth will out, right there and then.

Setting into motion a rapid-fire showcase of scenes from their collective memory, with events touching on themes of race, loyalty, privilege, maternity and fortune, the explosive effects of denied heritage, traded-away children and a marriage with dark connotations are revealed. Acclaimed Royal Court favourite Nathaniel Martello-White’s second script is certainly not laugh-a-minute, but proves a visceral, absorbing and crushing tale of a family torn between its best interests and its desires.

Who’s in it?

While the collective 9-strong ensemble is superb at seamlessly reanimating the ghosts of their pasts, a standout performance is delivered by Adelle Leonce as the wounded Angel, a powerless subject to the horrifying ramifications of her family’s failure to communicate.

Visiting the character at several junctures in her life, Adelle’s fearful portrayal binds the group together in gripping and evocative fashion, while special mention should also be made of the performances of Osy Ikhile as Angel’s conflicted ‘Couzin’, Jamael Westman as her confused ‘Brotha’, and James Hillier’s terrifyingly measured step-dad Steve.

What should I look out for?

The claustrophobic and cleverly tension-building simplicity of a locked, barren room, save for some chairs, a hot drinks dispenser and the characters themselves. The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs is completely stripped back, engulfing you in the finality of this family showdown – nobody, not even you, will leave until the truth is revealed.

Rare moments of silence which interrupt the tirade of accusation, with their relative brevity utterly chilling. One horrifyingly monologue on the history of slavery, in particular, when placed in context, might just have your flesh crawling – to another hemisphere.

A party game you’ll certainly want to play this Christmas… just maybe not with this particular family.

In a nutshell?

Nathaniel Martello-White’s rapid-fire memory drama swings and stings in a visceral, harrowing portrayal of a family torn apart. 

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Will I like it?

Only 90 minutes long, the anger and confusion of repressed memories bubble under the surface throughout Torn, and while there’s little consolation to be taken from the searing script, its sheer intensity will suck you in.

We all know that conflict can naturally stem from familial love, and placed under the dramatic microscope, this is harsher and more apparent than ever before. If you’re seeking a production with a poignant, pertinent punch, then Torn is certainly for you.

Torn plays at the Royal Court until 15 October. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website

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