REVIEW: WHITE BOY
Wednesday, January 30, 2008.
By Belinda Otas
Photo By Chris Ridley
Sorted is a Sudanese teenager who has come to England after experiencing the brutal murder of his family. He soon finds himself in a new environment and culture. It is rather challenging for him to comprehend both worlds and deal with his grief at the same time.
Ricky is a white boy who has friends from all over the world, including Victor, a Jamaican, who is Ricky’s football buddy. They are liked and respected by all and as far as they are concerned, they are all ‘breddas.’ Flips is the school drug dealer and his presence sends shivers down the spine of those around him.
One incident changed everything for these young men and Ricky is forced to confront his white identity in a multicultural Britain.
Written by Tanika Gupta and directed by Juliet Knight, White Boy is a much needed play that takes a look at the gritty realism of teenage culture in Britain today.
The play focuses on knife crime, and, with the government now proposing to introduce metal detectors into some schools, the play certainly makes a strong case against carrying “a blade” for self-defence. But Gupta also explores the themes of identity and teenage violence - it is about who you are as a teenager and your place in society.
However, this identity also moves beyond the issue of personal identity and tackles your identity as it relates to your race. Ricky finds himself caught between Flips and Sorted, and doing his best to stay loyal to both parties. An unflinching moment is when Flips refers to Sorted as a ‘refugee monkey.’
Gupta succeeds in her ability to capture the teenage street language. It is punchy, raw and racy, and adds humour and colour to the dialogue. The set design adds an edge to the play because of the symbolism a school gate adds to the play; their school is where they meet and discover themselves.
I’ll never forget the point of no return when Flips is stabbed and knife crime becomes real on the life stage. It is no longer what happens to others but I, as an audience member, I am now part of it.
This is the first time I'll see a play and witness theatre audience with teary eyes. It is a gripping and moving play because of the playwright's ability to convey the mixed emotions which teenagers experience as they try to define their place in society and among their friends.
The play is energetic and the young cast is a delight and easily likeable. From the confident and flirty Zara (Venetia Campbell) to Shaz (Peyvand Sadeghian), also a loud mouth but knows her limits.
Ciaran Owens is menacing as Flips and Luke Norris is brilliant as Ricky; often bringing light-hearted humour to the play with his ability to speak Jamaican Patois, which is entertaining.
The topicality of the play makes it a riveting production; it is concise and cannot be ignored but taken in and digested by all because it brings the epidemic of ‘knife crime’ closer home.
The production is sometimes spine-chilling, but without a doubt, White Boy is also an arresting production that leaves you questioning your role in the lives of the youth around you.
Written by Tanika Gupta
Directed by Juliet Knight
Designed by Lotte Collett
Lighting by David W Kidd
Sound Design by Roberto Raskovsky
Cast: Ricky Norris, Obi Iwumene, Venetia Campbell, Peyvand Sadeghian, Amiar Kamal, Timi Fadipe, Ciaran Owens, Nancy Wallinger, Daniel ward, Pedram Modaress, James Cooke, Isacc Stanmore, Frances Jackson, Stuart Conlan and Sita Thomas.
White Boy is currently showing at the Soho Theatre until February 9, 2008.
For more information visit: www.sohotheatre.com
Tel: 0870 429 6883.
Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine's theatre editor. She can be reached at email@example.com
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