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Be Born by Christian Graham at The Space | Review

Be Born - (c) Joe-Magowan
Be Born – (c) Joe-Magowan

There came a point during Be Born when it became very apparent to me that things were being done to maximise dramatic impact. Nothing wrong with that: this isn’t the first play to do so, and it won’t be the last. There’s a very precise rhythm to this piece of theatre, reflected not just in the poetry that opens the show (the longest preamble to a one-act play I’ve come across for some time) but in the sequence of events that occurs in what is, in terms of plot, a naturalistic play. Nobody’s phone rings in the middle of a sentence, and everyone speaks in turn.

A trio are doing what I’ve seen some people do in my own neighbourhood when I’m returning late from an evening at the theatre: conversing in a public park at night, having beers and enjoying a general catch-up. Ben (David East) has reached out to Shaz (Abigail Sewell) and Tyrice (Christian Graham) – it can be reasonably assumed he may have reached out to others, but these are the friends who are willing and available to meet up. The set does well to create the recreation ground atmosphere – upstage, there is a set of climbing apparatus, and a picnic table is centre stage, with leaves scattering the performance space.

The eclectic collection of poetry that begins proceedings contains a wide range of topics and observations, including social media, the London housing problem (well, crisis, really: let’s call a spade a spade) and the various challenges facing modern society. It’s a briskly paced beginning that is not sustained until the end, though this is not because the production seems to run out of energy, but rather the conversation becomes altogether more mature. There’s a progression from the relative vacuity of ‘truth or dare’ (“I dare you,” says Shaz to Tyrice, “to bite Ben on the arse”) to a heartfelt and intelligent discussion about the way forward for Ben.

Without giving it all away (which would take some time in any event – there’s a lot of detail in this show), Ben’s relationship with partner Sophie (an off-stage character, for reasons explained during ‘truth or dare’) has been complicated; Shaz’s somewhat justified call for a clean break is, to be blunt, eventually unheeded. I couldn’t quite follow the relevance of every point of discussion brought up – at one point, Shaz starts talking about trains in a depot “being asleep” – and a point about life apparently not being like a wheel of fortune didn’t really need to be reinforced by spinning the rear wheel of a bicycle lying on its side.

These are minor gripes, however, in a thoughtful show that has also moments of humour. A subplot about Shaz’s personal life reveals much about the sort of judgements some others are too quick to jump to because of her council estate background and her same-sex relationships. It’s not a pity-fest, it’s not melodramatic, it’s simply a gritty and convincing insight into the tests and trials the up and coming generation must still overcome in a supposedly more enlightened era.

As for Ben, it’s difficult not to be pleased that he has a support network of friends – even ones he had previously lost touch with and hadn’t spoken to for some years. It’s equally easy to spare a thought for those who, for whatever reason, don’t have that kind of support and compassion available. Perhaps the play may even inspire someone in the audience to re-establish old friendship links. A reflective and challenging production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

In time… we are shaped by the people and things we interact with…like glass, blown by the flame. We journey with those we value. They help us emerge from darkness.

Ben is in trouble. His ex-girlfriend is pregnant and he’s just lost his job. So he seeks the only two people that might be able to help him. But that means returning home, and he hasn’t done that in 5 years. The period of self-imposed exile is officially over.

Be Born is an exciting new collaboration from up and coming playwright Christian Graham and Director Steph Hadfield. Identity, friendship, sexuality – this is the uplifting story of three friends embarking on a journey of self-discovery from which there is no return.

26 June – 30 June 2018

Cast & Creatives Writer Christian Graham
Director Freyja Winterson
Producer Max Percy
Production Assistant Emma Kendall

Ben – David East
Tyrice – Christian Graham
Shaz – Abigail Sewell

The Space
269 Westferry Road,
London, E14 3RS
United Kingdom

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