Tuesday, 11 June 2019

REVIEW: The Upsetters, a collection of Short Plays, at the Bunker Theatre

The Upsetters is a short play night written, directed and performed by people of colour (unless otherwise specified in the script). The evening collectively provides an opportunity for unrepresented backgrounds to tell their stories through performance. Every story was told from a different background and communicated tales about cultural differences, discrimination and how to be seen and heard by the community. All five short plays were wonderful, so I will do a short review for each play.

Where do Mangoes Grow

Chantelle Dusette’s piece shows the relationship between a woman’s parents from the Windrush Generation. Clips of Theresa May speaking about the new immigration laws are played to demonstrate how the immigration laws introduced mean these people would be denied NHS treatment, the ability to continue working, or even stay in the UK by not having the correct documentation. Anthony Chisholm was brilliant as the father and Shante Campbell’s direction intertwines the family bond well, introducing the effects it has on both generations. However, the vocal projection could have been improved as it was difficult to hear what was happening. More context was needed near the end of the play as it was unclear what was happening, there was a heavy reliance on the recordings to tell the story. More detail was required to see the political impact of this on their family, I was unsure whether her father’s death was a metaphor or if the stress of the new laws had killed him.

Fennel Spiked Lamb 

Written by Nicole Latchana, Fennel Spiked Lamb was a simple interaction between an over-worked Bangladeshi man, named Asad, and a Scottish woman on a hen do, called Laura. They meet at the hotel is he working at and Laura is concerned at the pressure of work Asad is feeling, acting naively – while trying to help- about the implications it would have on him and his family if she intervened. A poignant line in the play goes along the lines of ‘I’m trying to give you a voice’, ‘I know, but it’s YOUR voice, not mine’. I loved how the focus of the play is awareness of others’ struggles and listening to their needs before helping in a way you feel is beneficial.

Yusuf Niazi’s direction was a little heavy on physical theatre to represent Asad’s over-working, but, overall, the lovely relationship between the pair was the forefront. The contrast between them was vast, but the moments portraying the respect they had gained for one another in such a short space of time made up for the plot being slow to pick up pace. Brilliant concept but needs some adapting


Jollof Court 

Gail Egbeson’s short play is energetic, humorous and a perfect way to represent cultural differences in a loving relationship. A couple (of Ghanian and Nigerian descent) attend a ‘marriage court’ to debate which Jollof rice is better, along with other aspects of their cultures are stopping them from getting hitched. Tian Brown-Sampson has staged it well and the acting was light-hearted and fun to watch, the play went on a touch too long and could have been cut a few minutes, but was mostly enjoyable.


Who Killed Chameleon Girl? 

This play, written by Marika Mckennell, picked up the pace of the evening. An excellent idea; two young, rebellious graffiti-artists try to rebrand their partner to boost the credit she gets for her work (I won’t spoil the twist!). A combination of spoken word and fast-paced acting between the women, it was slick, upbeat and full of attitude. Adrian Tang has blocked the piece spectacularly and both performers were relaxed and entertaining to watch.



Daniel Rusteau’s Dismissed was the standout play of the evening. Directed by Aysha Kala, the play is set in a school and is a conversation between two teachers regarding the expelling of a student who was found with a knife in class. Hugely relevant at this time, but rarely told in an educational environment, both sides of the discussion had polar perspectives but were equally important. Bianca Stephens and Emma Keele were exceptional; their valid points sparked a discussion that should be had. A powerful piece, I hope to see this programmed in larger venues. 


Each play had a strong similarity of friendship and support through adversity, even as some situations (work, violence, family backgrounds) may be misconstrued or hard to understand by another person. The theme of each piece was brilliant, the evening was definitely not one to miss. I can 100% confirm the talent is out there and has a story to tell.
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