Pros: David Mumeni’s performance as the likeable hero, Rahul.
Cons: Some aspects of the plot stretch credibility.
Onto an almost bare, stark white stage bounds Rahul, a good-looking young man with infectious enthusiasm and a little twinkle in his eye. He addresses the audience with a question, “Do you feel British?” and then he’s off; talking at great speed about the events that followed his eighteenth birthday.
Rahul is an amusing and energetic storyteller who, through accent, turn of phrase and facial expression vividly brings to life all the other characters in his story. These include his grandfather, a first generation immigrant from India, who embraces British life wholeheartedly, and his mother, who despite a lifetime in England, stills clings to Gujarati culture, and urges Rahul to do the same.
Rahul’s narrative starts in 2005, and flits between the local and the global. Whilst he is falling in love for the first time, and sitting his A-levels, the second Gulf War is in full-swing. Whilst he is enjoying his first lads’ holiday abroad, London wins the Olympic Games, and then suffers the 7th July terror attacks. The people around him, for better or worse, become outwardly focused, and adopt a position in relation to these world events. Rahul, on the other hand, minds his own business, tries to pass exams and see his girlfriend, but then trouble comes looking for him.
The Rahul that we see in 2012 has shrunk a little. His life has been derailed by indirect consequences of terrorism and the ‘war on terror’. The bouncy, exuberant eighteen year old has given way to a quieter, more hesitant twenty-five year old, and that change is very moving. Yet there is something of the Forrest Gump about Rahul. In spite of everything he has been through, he has a relentless optimism and almost heroic determination to avoid cynicism.
This is a tremendously demanding part to play, and David Mumeni does a sterling job of switching endlessly between characters and between the two ‘versions’ of Rahul. He, and director Tanith Lindon, bring out every bit of humour and pathos in Vinay Patel’s dense script. There were a few moments where the dialogue was so fast that I lost a few words, or lost track of which character was speaking, but it didn’t affect my understanding or enjoyment of the piece.
There were some elements of this story that I found hard to believe, not least Rahul’s ‘red mist’ moment in the alley. But for an hour-long show it managed to cover an impressive amount of ground – friendship, young love, radicalisation, integration – with an array of well-developed characters. It was funny, emotional and thought-provoking.
This was my first visit to The Vaults, in the graffiti filled arches behind Waterloo station, and I loved it! Cheaper than a face-lift and easier than a piercing, it made me feel young and edgy for one glorious evening.
Author: Vinay Patel
Director: Tanith Lindon
Producer: Rich Mason Productions & High Tide Festival Theatre
Booking until: 22 February 2015
Box office: 020 7620 3364
Booking link: http://www.vaultfestival.com/project/true-brits/