Camden Fringe: Warde Street, Tristan Bates Theatre
Directed by Jason B. Moore
Pros: Solid drama, seriously good acting and completely absorbing writing.
Cons: A play based on the repercussions of the London bombings on 7th July 2005 may seem an unlikely subject for an evening of entertainment but don’t let that stop you.
Our Verdict: Gripping, thought provoking, political and topical. It continues to play in your head long after the curtain comes down.
This was my first visit to the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden. It’s quite well hidden on Tower Street and easily missed but it’s also part of The Actors Centre which is more clearly marked. The intimate theatre space seats seventy arranged in quite shallow tiers so if you’re vertically challenged like me (at 5’ 3”) you might want to get in early and grab a place in the front row.
After reading the brief description provided in the publicity blurb I was expecting a tough, heavy drama. It didn’t disappoint on that score but I didn’t expect to be so absorbed or affected by it. Sadly, like many Londoners or city dwellers, stories that we read in the newspapers remain just that, and are easily forgotten. Warde Street brings you into the centre of such a headline and shows how dangerous sweeping, ill-informed racism can be and how things can so quickly spiral out of control.
The story is chronologically reversed and initial assumptions are gradually deconstructed as we follow the characters back through time. We begin with David (Cameron Harris), an ambitious politician who has left his wife and family for his mistress Sam and is now having to counter the resulting damage caused to his public image and career. His life revolves around maximising positive spin regardless of the impact on his personal relationships.
Sam (Avita Jay) is Muslim and publicly fighting to defend her brother-in-law Ash (Omar Ibrahim) who is awaiting trial for killing an intruder at his shop. She is relying on David to publicly support Ash but he’s concerned about being associated with the trial and isn’t convinced of Ash’s innocence.
Eddie O’Brien (Shane Noone) is the widower of a woman killed in the London bombing and is at the crux of the storyline. It’s his grief and inability to come to terms with his loss that sets in motion a chain of events which provides the backbone of this drama. We see him drunk and visiting Ash, his old boozing mate who has since reformed into a steady family man. Eddie is desperate to obliterate his pain with the whisky bottle and wants his old buddy to join him. But Ash has left all that behind and is now happily married to Yasmeenah (Ruby Visaria) and a practising Muslim. Religion provides a flashpoint between the friends; Eddie perceives that religion to have blatantly robbed him of his own wife while he sees Ash continue to play happy families. Tensions rise as Ash tries to comfort and support his old mate whilst remaining true to his own faith and moral code.
I was completely engrossed right from the start and was carried along on the journey without any distraction. All of the actors gave amazingly strong performances and it’s difficult to single anyone out. Shane Noone in particular had a tough job as Eddie and yet he ably managed to take us from drunken buffoonery through to unfathomable despair.
Damien Tracey is to be congratulated for his intelligent writing and sharp dialogue which somehow even accommodates some comedic moments to bring texture to the production. Congratulations to all involved; I hope Warde Street goes on to be appreciated by many future audiences.
Seen the show yourself? Agree or disagree? Submit your own review with our Camden Fringe Big Audience Project.
Warde Street runs at the Tristan Bates theatre until 24th August 2013.
Box Office: 020 7240 6283 or book online at: http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/tbt_performanceListing.asp