93.2 FM
Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London SW1
Opened 8 September, 2006

Levi David Addai's first play emerges from the theatre's Young Writers Programme, but it does not feel like "a Royal Court play". This is to both the play's and the Court's credit. The story concerns a South London local radio station whose main DJ, Coach, is offered a place on a leading station, leading his best friend and co-founder Bossman to accuse him of betraying the community. Given the same characters and situation, an archetypal Court play would have Bossman and Coach's brother on crack rather than just the occasional puff of herb, would have them both toting guns rather than fighting with words only, would probably assign the problematic pregnancy to Coach's underage sister rather than his girlfriend, and would certainly have a body count even after 80 brief minutes. In contrast, Addai's play has a more or less upbeat ending with no "urban" heaviness, not even any profanity that I can recall, and the only dead person in Dawn Walton's production is Tupac Shakur on a poster on the studio door.

Nevertheless, it stakes out the same thematic and psychological territory as much darker plays: that of personal and professional loyalties, ambition versus notions of faithfulness and so on. Coach is not a self-serving go-getter; his motives at City FM will be the same as at Borough FM, he simply has to impress on Bossman that "the world doesn't just revolve round south London". Addai may not delve quite as deeply into his characters' psyches as some other writers, but this is after all his début piece. Moreover, he is in some ways himself in the same situation as Coach: if he were to change his style and approach, he might end up with a different audience, more prestigious perhaps but not connecting as surely with an appreciative crowd such as that in the theatre on the evening I attended. I have no desire to come over as a "wigger" like Omar, the token white character from the big station, but when I say that Addai's play is "safe" I mean it in the best colloquial sense.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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