|A Few Man Fridays Puts Outcast People on the Map|
Liz Vercoe enjoys outstanding modern theatre at Riverside
A man named Prosper is seeing a psychoanalyst. He’s hearing voices, seeing faces and having bad dreams. This is not surprising, the analyst suggests, as he doesn’t know who his real parents are or why he was twice abandoned as a child.
He doesn’t even know what nationality he is. And possibly scrambling his mental state further is his drug using past and the fact that he’s about to be evicted on to the street.
Each of these frayed strands of Prosper’s life are the threads that writer and director Adrian Jackson uses to weave this politically charged story of Britain and America’s exploitation and eviction of the entire people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. That was back in the 60s and it’s still having adverse repercussions today.
Ansu Kabia’s Prosper is thoroughly convincing as a man fighting his own dysfunctional behaviour, hoping to find release from an inner pain. A pain, “Sagren” in Kreol, he later discovers is the knock-on result of a $14million deal between heads of state during the Cold War.
That’s when Britain bought the Chagos islands, and depopulated “A Few Man Fridays” in exchange for some help with Polaris from the US.
The play, performed by the Cardboard Citizen’s company, punches way above its apparent weight. The skilful use of multimedia, created by London-based artists SDNA, combines the seven main actors with TV documentary, Facebook style posting, recorded oral history and photography on sliding screens.
At first this feels as if it might be great for the multi-screen generation, but cause a bad case of vertigo for the rest. But the images and sounds add a bigger emotional experience. Even an apparently random clip of a springer spaniel starts to take on curious significance as the pieces of the story begin to fit together like a chocolate orange. This is outstanding modern theatre direction.
Actress Duncan-Brewster is gripping to watch as she creates characters ranging from Madame Talate a Chagossian grandmother in the past, to Peter an oozily smooth British Minister of State in the present. Josian Fauzou takes on four roles, and his teacher of Kreol who is making ends meet working at Gatwick Airport adds a particularly rich, island authenticity. A number of the islanders ended up in Crawley.
Cardboard Citizens takes to its heart plays about dispossessed, oppressed and displaced people. It also provides opportunities for homeless people to perform and get involved with the work of professional actors and theatre professionals. Here, for example, in the play’s crowd and dream sequences. It’s not seamless but it’s mightily effective, and relevant. The actions of the State affect the individual.
If the name Diego Garcia rings any sort of bell it’s likely to be linked to the recent row over American “rendition” flights touching down on British soil. Diego Garcia is the key Chagos island in this tale.
The play comes right up to date. Alasdair Craig plays the single minded Conservationist who spots a unique opportunity to preserve a vital piece of the Earth’s dwindling marine habitats – as long as the island remains unpopulated outside the military base. And Peter the politician who is dealing with appeals by Chagossians to return home rubs his hands. The tensions of Coral v Kreol lead to an edge-of-seat last scene.
A Few Man Fridays continues until March 10
For tickets call the Box Office 0208 237 1111 or book online.
Pictures by Simon Annand.
February 24, 2012