Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review: Albion at the Bush Theatre

Bush Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 19th September 2014

"This is England and it’s time to take it back."

Chris Thompson strikes again. Whilst I am still recovering from his first play Carthage, which was staged at the Finborough Theatre earlier this year, Thompson's new play Albion is making its mark at the Bush Theatre.

The writer, who previously worked as a social worker, certainly doesn't shy away from tackling gigantic modern day issues. The majority of the action takes place in an East End pub. As well as hosting karaoke nights, the boozer is the unofficial home of the English Protection Army (EPA). Albion explores the rise of the new far-right.

The piece tackles huge themes within a karaoke structure. At the start of each scene television screens display the title of a karaoke classic, and often the cast then break into that song at some point during the scene whilst showcasing (sometimes) amateurish, karaoke-style vocals. I am sure that for many the karaoke concept is a little overwhelming - the Bush is intimate yet all the cast are mic'd up enabling the music to blare out - but I absolutely love the idea; it paves the way for some beautifully awkward moments which only ties in with the uncomfortable nature of the play.

Once again Thompson has written a bunch of strong and contrasting characters; however, in Albion they could be pushed further. I wanted more layers to be shed and different faces to be revealed. The performance of the night came from Natalie Casey as social worker Christine. Casey's rendition of 'It's Raining Men' provides the most powerful moment - both in terms of vocal ability and what it symbolised. Steve John Shepherd gives a strong performance as the EPA's leader Paul who becomes twisted with determination. Tony Clay and Delroy Atkinson both impress as Jayson and Kyle.

What I admire most about Thompson's writing is his ability to present an issue to an audience without telling them what they should think. As I sat on my train home I was able to digest the piece and think in detail about both sides of the argument. Often plays try to make a point, but instead Thompson allows his audience to decide exactly what that point should be. I hugely respect the risks taken and hope I don't have to wait too long to see Thompson's next piece.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Albion runs at the Bush Theatre until Saturday 25th October 2014.
Please visit www.bushtheatre.co.uk for information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

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