Albion: Fast and Furious Action at The Bush

Penny Flood finds this multi-media event just a bit too frenetic

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It’s Karaoke night at the Albion pub in London’s East End. The pub is run by Paul (Steve John Shepherd) and his brother Jayson (Tony Clay) who is in charge of the Karaoke.

Jayson lives for Karaoke but Paul has other things on his mind. He feels threatened by immigrants who he says are taking jobs, housing and benefits from the English. Determined to reclaim England for the English he has set up the English Protection Association (EPA) and he’s organised a march, fully supported by his best customer and best friend Kyle (Delroy Atkinson) which sets off a chain of events after which nothing can ever be the same.

Tony Clay (Jayson) image by Richard Davenport

This is a highly political, fast moving multi-media event with lots of big television screens, plenty of music and a computer. The story is told through songs, music, video and words in a series of short, snappy vignettes. We learn what’s going on in bits and pieces, and you do have to concentrate, especially as one of the story lines runs backwards.

Nicola Harrison, Delroy Atkinson (Kyle), Tony Clay (Jayson). by Richard Davenport

It’s clever, funny, sad, surprising, shocking and tragic, with some sharp dialogue. It’s also thought provoking and unsettling.

Although Paul can be easily dismissed as a ranting, racist there’s much more to him than that. He’s a complex character and, although he’s hard to like, he becomes more understandable as things go along.

The same goes for his side kicks – Jayson and Kyle. You can’t take anything or anyone at face value. Other plots and characters are interwoven into the main story rounding it out and delivering some interesting twists until it lurches to its desperate end.

Nicola Harrison (Poppy). image by Richard Davenport

Writer Chris Thomson wanted to take a look at what happens when people who have an issue feel that nobody is listening to them. These are the people who feel outside of the political mainstream and are ripe for a takeover by the extreme right. Thomson doesn’t offer any easy answers because there are none.

However, I have a problem with the structure. I liked the way the story was unwrapped segment by segment, but with so many ideas being thrown around, it was a bit too frenetic and would benefit from being slowed down a tad. Nothing would be lost if some of the many scenes were trimmed, or even (in a couple of places) removed altogether, just to steady the pace so thoughts could keep up with the action.

Albion is on at The Bush Theatre until October 25. For more details and online booking go here.

September 29, 2014