Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Keeping Mum - The Brockley Jack Theatre, London

Writer: Judith Bryan
Director: Rebecca Manson Jones
Reviewer: Toni Stott-Rates
[Rating: 4.5]

White flecks the set like pebble dash on a house, bringing the snow that howls outside in the world of the play, into the environment of the set. A fitting symbol, as the snow in Judith Bryan’s play is a strange foreign thing that covers the psychological landscape of this play, imposing a sort of alienation both emotional and mental to the characters, most especially to ‘Emilia’ the focal voice of this play.

Keeping Mum is one of three plays chosen from many submissions for ‘Write Now, 2’ a festival which looks to celebrate and bring to the fore new unperformed plays and encourage playwrites, and they chose well, this is a beautiful beautiful play Judith Bryan has woven, a story that is at once deeply familiar and yet the story is so successful that while I felt the strains of its familiar and often told story I was so caught up in the telling of it that I couldn’t wait to see how it would be revealed.

Inspired by the winter of 1962-63 when the snow started on Boxing Day and only stopped in April, Judith Bryan explores the relationship of a young couple just moved to England from the Caribbean as they deal with the extreme weather and their issues that come to change the course of their lives forever. Skilfully and subtly directed by Rebecca Manson Jones the play moves cleverly from the now to the then, as a ‘stranger’ prompts Emilia to recall memories of her husband, her brother Godfrey and the winter of 1962 when her baby was born. Taking up the same physical space on the set, Emilia moves erratically between times unfolding her tragedy and revealing the source of her current sorry mental status.

I have nothing but good to say about the actors, Evadne Ricketts is miraculous in her restrained performance of an obviously emotionally overwrought woman, Marcus Adolphy charming and Howard Saddler impressive as a man struggling to retain his pride and provide for his family the best way he knows how. Donna Berlin is great as Jacs but I must say the show is almost stolen by Matt Christian Reed’s seething creepiness as Jay, the stranger with motives. He captivates with his portrayal of Jay, drawing you in as you try to understand whether he is emotionally unstable or if the things that drive him are causing his unsteady behaviour.

I don’t want to say much more about this show as I don’t want to reveal any of its secrets and spoil your viewing. Suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait for more plays to come from Judith Bryan.

Running: 8-12 March 2011
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