BRIXTON STORIES
Tricycle Theatre, London NW6
Opened 17 October, 2001

*** Flight of fancy whose feet never quite touch the ground

Several reviewers have described Biyi Bandele's two-hander as "whimsical", and it's hard to disagree; it never actually goes anywhere.

I know and like the Nigerian-born Bandele both as a person and a writer (of novels as well as plays), but sometimes his delight in strange, shimmering, surreal visions runs away with him, and this is one of those occasions. Ostensibly the tale of lawyer Ossie Jones and his daughter Nehushta, this play also takes in Brixton street life, a knowing parody of fringe theatre and a lengthy dream sequence in which Ossie is framed for murder and finds that his cellmate has provoked Death himself into going on strike. What this has to do with Bandele's original writing brief to produce a response to Shakespeare's history plays for the RSC's "This Other Eden" season earlier this year is anybody's guess.

Actors Jude Akuwudike and Diane Parish relish shifting between their many roles, and director Roxana Silbert ensures that the size and variety of characters provides a sense of movement which is frankly undelineated either in story or setting. It is a charming piece, but after a little while its very charm becomes relentless and oppressive; you wish this dramatic butterfly would alight somewhere for more than a second, and preferably on a rhino for contrast.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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