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A CurtainUp London Review
Seize the Day
The joyous thing about Kwame's dramatic writing is the minutely observed detail, a delicious comedic warmth and the way he tempers serious political points with gentle amusement. In my book, it is a much more effective way of delivering a message than hitting the audience over the head with doctrine.
Jeremy Charles is a celebrity, black, well educated and very personable. After coming to fame as a contestant on a show like The Apprentice, he finds a career as a television presenter. It is during the filming of one of these programmes at London's newest luxury shopping centre that he acquires hero status with the public and comes to the notice of Howard Jones (Karl Collins), high profile black head of a government organisation and Jennifer Thomson (Jaye Griffiths) the political fixer of Campaign Black Vote!. Jeremy has an unsympathetic white wife, Alice (Amelia Lowdell) and a loving black girlfriend, Susan (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). Lavelle (Amil Ameen), the kid with the knife in the opening scene gets probation on condition that he visits Jeremy Charles so that Lavelle can be steered in the right direction. Meanwhile Jeremy is persuaded to stand in the London mayoral race.
Seize the Day blends the political and the personal in a convincing way so that we have black middle-class Jeremy with all his advantages contrasting his life with that of his brother who didn't have Jeremy's educational promise or advantages and who lives in a council flat in Peckham. Jeremy is trying to change things on two levels, politically as a candidate to improve the life chances for black kids and individually with Lavelle, a bright young black man who Jeremy hopes to save from crime. The playwright also highlights the pressure put on prominent black politicians by journalists ready to expose any flaws as well as exposing the bloody game of politics.
Kwame directs and Rosa Maggiora has designed interesting sets with video backdrops or actual film from mesmer. So in Howard Jones' office we see the blown up the photo of Jones greeting Barack Obama or a well-wishing note to Jennifer from MP and black activist Bernie Grant. In fact, the script, the set and filmed sequences are stuffed with pertinent, witty and clever references. We delight at Howard offering Jeremy the hand sanitiser gel, ostensibly because Jeremy has just caught a fly barehanded but only then giving him his hand for a hand shake. In order to show us how power hungry they are, Jennifer and the guy representing the Asian political interest group, Ravinder (Abhin Galeya) play a hard fought game of tennis on the Wii.
The performances are inspirational. Kobna's contained Jeremy Charles, sometimes out of his political depth, sometimes naive but always a sympathetic listener with a good heart, is a man who tries to do the right thing. This is a huge part for Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as he is almost never off stage and he carries it with sincerity and conviction. He is so believable I am ready to vote for him in the real mayoral elections! Kobna's scenes with Aml Ameen underline the promise of both actors as deliverers of a major dramatic punch. Again it's down to Kwame's writing, but I liked Lavelle's articulate, bright conversation and his ability to switch into street talk, "Innit!". Karl Collins and Jaye Griffiths play their political wheeler dealers with confident aplomb.
Yet again Kwame's political play makes you think and leaves space to smile. As a dramatist, his plays mirror the warmth of his personality and his love for humanity.
This is the second in the Tricycle's Not Black and White Season. For our review of the first, Category B, go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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