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Albatross at The Playground Theatre | Review

Jodie (Sarel Madziya) says she’s gay. Then she says she’s bisexual. Then she says she’s transgender. This all makes me wonder why she bothers with labels at all. It is not, I suggest, sufficient to say it doesn’t really matter – if it really didn’t, she wouldn’t have bothered saying it, and there are people who find strength in their personal identity, whatever that might be. She is also after another ‘label’, which she has asked for from Kit (Emily Pemberton), an apprentice in a tattoo shop. Axel (also Madziya), who runs the tattoo shop, isn’t impressed when Kit fails to turn up for a shift without so much as a phone call or even a text message to say what has happened. But she keeps her on the staff regardless – just about.

Nemide May and Loussin-Torah Pilikian in Albatross, photo by Hannah Ellison.
Nemide May and Loussin-Torah Pilikian in Albatross, photo by Hannah Ellison.

Occasionally there are more than two people in any given scene, though most of the conversations are one-on-one. Jesse (Nemide May) has the unenviable task of telling Warren (Loussin-Torak Pilikian) that the latter is unable to participate in a planned trip overseas. The reason given is clear cut, but this doesn’t stop Warren from protesting in the strongest terms. Non-acceptance of the status quo is something of a recurring theme. Is the play trying to speak truth to power, as it were? Sunny (also Pilikian) pushes back, both verbally and physically, against Pip (Samarge Hamilton), after breaking a house rule, which means she is no longer permitted to stay in the hostel that has been her home for some time.

The misdemeanour, she is at pains to point out, is minor, and it’s not like anyone was killed, hospitalised or abused. I found myself taking sides with the hostel – there is no point having rules and having people agree to them if they are not going to be enforced – and, as Pip says, it’s not like Sunny has no alternatives. Keep things consistent and have everyone on the same page (or, to put it another way, this isn’t the Government). Ashleigh (Aaron Douglas), Jesse’s ‘boss’, says she wants to ‘help’ Lucy (also May), who works in adult entertainment (ahem), but – and this is a fair point – she makes good money, thank you very much.

With several narratives going on at once (I haven’t pointed all of them out here) it’s not the easiest play to follow, and there are so many loose ends that it would probably take another ninety minutes to tie them all up. These are, however, not disparate stories, and the whole ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. These are gritty stories about the kinds of people who aren’t often seen on theatre stages. The disagreements, awkwardness and arguing between various characters may seem relentless but do make for gripping theatre.

The set consists of movable horizontal blocks, which invariably act as seats in different settings, proving sufficiently versatile throughout the evening. Much of the dialogue is delivered at pace, which admittedly made the show feel a little rushed. The past is in the past, as Elsa belts in Frozen the Musical. This engaging and thoughtful production suggests that there is no need to try to forget or erase the past, but rather it can be used to help shape a better future.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s not just the choice
It’s never just the choice
Choice is a fairy-tale.

Tattoos are forever. Almost. And at Noodle Soup Tattoo there are strict rules: No names unless they’re dead. Nothing on the face. Nothing you might get sued for later.

When Jodie, a rough sleeper, asks for a free tattoo from apprentice Kit, her request is well within the guidelines. But Kit is still unsure, because they know only too well that getting inked isn’t the only decision that stays with you for the rest of your life.

Albatross is a small but sweeping story about the past refusing to stay in the past.

Cast: Samarge Hamilton, Emily Pemberton, Aaron Douglas, Sarel Madziya, Nemide May and Louissin-Torah Pilikian.

Completing the creative team is Kasia Zaremba-Byrne (Movement Director Interruptions), Annabel Arden (Associate Artist Interruptions), Catherine Morgan (Designer), Jack Boissieux (Production Manager), Jo Nead (Stage Manager), Hannah Hawkins (Assistant Stage Manager), Beth Duke (Sound Designer), Beth Gupwell (Lighting Designer), Frankie Parham (Producer) and Katy Beechey (Executive Director of represent.).

Albatross
Written by Isley Lynn, directed by Jess Edwards.
On: Monday 25 October at 7.30pm.
The Playground Theatre
Latimer Road, London, W10 6RQ
https://theplaygroundtheatre.london/

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