If you were not in the Casa, Liverpool Friday night between 7 and 10 you missed two wonderful things. First: the best night of the Liverpool Fringe Festival. Two: the debut shows of two of the most promising new playwrights Liverpool has right now.
The first show was Hurt by Jemma Buntin. This groundbreaking play tells a vital daring story of extremism, isolation and radicalisation in today’s uncertain world.
Michael Moran who recently starred as Kevin Moody in ITV’s Little Boy Blue gives a heart wrenching portrayal of John, a 15 year old boy whose loneliness has led him to the world of Islamophobia and Far Right Extremism.
John is alone while the other characters are arranged in pairs, which increases the sense of his isolation. Lee Morris and Katie Lynn play Isaac and Jenny. Isaac is John’s best friend and tries to defend John though he doesn’t agree with his views. Jenny is Isaac’s friend and attacks John and his views. The three way relationship gives a roundness to the story in a beautifully subtle way.
Zeedane, played by Dimitri Dematteo, who is Muslim has moved to the town with his sister Madeeha, played by Christina Bimpson, and is joining the youth club football team John, Isaac and Jenny are a part of. John is very upset by this and after an emotional argument leaves the youth club angry and distressed. This begins a cycle of events that drives John further into the world of extremism and towards the path of anger and violence. Zeedane and Madeeha’s parents are both dead and John’s father was killed while serving in the armed forces creating a tangible emotional parallel between the characters.
The final pairing are the two adults in the play, John’s mother played by Emily-Louise Lockhart and Eddie played by Louis Cashin-Harris who runs the youth club. John’s mother is struggling with alcohol addiction making his home life difficult and Eddie tries to keep the peace by removing John from situations rather than offering him the help that he needs. This leaves him with no mature role model to turn towards.
A loud surreal fast moving Ensemble made up of Joe Massey, Andrew Holliday, Dylan Kealy, Britani Humphries and Kenya Humphries, along with some of the primary cast, make up the last element of an environment in which John is rapidly suffocating. He is alone in the world and there is nothing anywhere for him. The Far Right Extremists say they will give him the chance to do his Dad justice and, most importantly, somewhere to belong.
This controversial play is a fast moving, heart wrenching tale of what it is to be young and alone in today’s world, desperate for someone to turn to and something to cling on to.
This show has been performed as part of the Liverpool Fringe Festival. Some of the performances had some roles performed by an alternative cast. Michael Moran, Louis Cashin-Harris, Christina Bimpson and Dimitri Damatteo appear in both casts. The actors were all provided by AllStars Casting and the play was skillfully directed by Sylvie Gatrill.
I managed to catch up with some of the cast and the playwright after the showing. This is the first stage performance for a lot of the cast including Michael Moran and Dimitri Dematteo. The cast are all very mature and showed great insight into the issues dealt with in the play and the motivations of the characters. There was a lot of support for events like the Liverpool Fringe Festival and its ability to promote theatre within the local community and give people within the arts scene the opportunity to network with other local artists. They feel it is very important to produce and perform controversial theatre as it raises awareness of issues. Michael Moran said that people are aware of things happening but don’t understand all of the issues involved. He feels the play will help people to understand hate and presenting the issues as a story paints a full picture of what is happening. The play was particularly important to Dimitri Dametteo who wanted to play his role after experiencing racial bullying growing up. He loves the play and feels the message if very important. He says that doing the play has been an education for the whole cast and changed them all. Christina Bimpson really appreciated the parallels of parental loss between Madeeha and Zeedane, and John and liked the contrast of Madeeha and Zeedane having religion to turn to whereas John had nothing leading him to turn to extremism.
Speaking to Jemma Buntin, the playwright I learned that this performance was a shortened version of her full play. She is hoping to find the right venue to perform the full show in and would also be interested in adapting the play for screen and also going into schools with the play as a Theatre in Education with associated workshop activities. The issues in the play are very important to her and related to her work in Prevent based projects. She thinks it is important to raise awareness as people talk about the situation behind closed doors but not often enough in public which leads to the isolation that people are feeling. This stops effective intervention happening quickly enough when radicalisation is taking place. She is very proud of the whole cast and what they have achieved and has great hope for the future.
Hurt will be reperformed on 29 June at 8:00pm.
The second show was the last ever showing of The Man with No Identity by Christopher Woodward which I reviewed after its debut showing in May. Seeing it again did not lessen its impact and Bob Towers’ masterful portrayal of Edgar J Harris has evolved to become more provocative, more daring and more acerbic than ever. It is a loss to Liverpool theatre and the world of theatre as a whole that Edgar J Harris will never smile sardonically at his Newton’s cradle again.
Both Christopher Woodward and Jemma Buntin have long exciting careers to look forward to and it has been a privilege to witness the beginning of both.
Copyright, D M Day, 2017