Home » London Theatre Reviews » Between The Lines at the New Diorama Theatre | Review

Between The Lines at the New Diorama Theatre | Review

Fire beats, family problems and a fading London identity are at the forefront of this new, dynamic and moving piece of gig theatre. The story of change, home and identity in London is told by Jammz and James Meteyard.

Between The Lines. Credit Ali Wright.
Between The Lines. Credit Ali Wright.

Between the Lines tells the story of Blaze FM, a hip-hop radio station playing illegally out of a block of flats facing redevelopment. We meet the self-anointed ‘Shutdown’ crew, helmed by the enormously charismatic Hughbert (Andrew Brown), his ambitious, impassioned daughter and contrastingly lost son and the band of merry men who populate the legendary radio station that is Blaze FM. Set over 20 years, we kick off with projections of 9/11, before jumping ahead to the 7/7 bombings, before leaping on to Windrush, Brexit, Austerity and gentrification. It is a play that charts and reflects on being young, being black and a changing London over the 21st Century.

The piece centres around Hubert, who is initially wrongfully harassed by the police for an incident in the London riots before being served a Windrush deportation notice and concluding with the council’s attempts to sell the flat off for redevelopment. The piece pays lip service to structural problems, though it only ever makes fleeting references to a lack of investment in community services, government scapegoats and police racism, instead leaving most of the conclusions to be made by the audience.

Inevitably, a piece centering on a radio station is going to have music in the veins of its dramaturgy, and Between The Lines takes that to the next level. The story is told with intermittent songs performed live by the cast, tracking their change, their development and where they are in life. The tracks are used well, punctuating moments. The opening song instantly wins the audience over to the characters, investing, charming and warming us to their lives, and their wants and immersing us in the world they live in.

The pacing, however, is strange. The two hours fly by, which is good in some ways, but the writer repeatedly whisks his actors off the stage, when the moment is ripe for a longer, more fleshed-out interaction. The politics of the piece are in some ways obvious, gentrification, structural racism etc, and yet throughout the dialogue they are scarcely named. I think this is good, it’s got that Brechtian nudging of the audience to go and make their conclusion. The problem is that when they do go into politics, it is stated in such unambiguous terms that all subtlety or thought on the part of the audience is no longer necessary.

The backdrop of the stage is the outline of blocks of flats. It reminds me of Chris Bush’s Standing at the Sky’s Edge, but is so much better. The piece is unpretentious, charismatic but wholly moving. Performances are strong all around, each of the ensemble bringing new angles and layers to a complex reflection on the 21st Century in London.

4 stars

REview by Tom Carter

A rundown council flat in Hackney is the home of Blaze FM, a frantic pirate radio station playing Jungle and Grime to keen listeners. Illegally.

Hughbert and the Shut Down Crew are here to tell you about Blaze FM being the heart and soul of raw new music, as well as it being a hub bringing real news to the community. But with the constant signal cuts by DTI and threats from the authorities, there’s more at stake than the station’s existence.

Can Blaze FM survive? Can Hughbert keep his secret from those closest to him? How far can your expressions of freedom go before you become a target of the state?

Credits
Director – Maggie Norris
Writer – James Meteyard
Writer and Composer – Jammz
Musical Director – Shemzy
Set Designer – Tina Torbey
Lighting Designer – Alex Forey
Sound Designer – Jack Baxter
Video Designer – Mic Pool
Costume Designer – Lambdog1066
Associate Director – Christopher Neels
Set Design Associate – Pauline McGrath
Stage Manager – Stacey Nurse
Producer – Nassy Konan

CAST
Hughbert – Andrew Brown
Alpha – Aliaano El-Ali
Mute – Daniel Holden
Jason – Alexander Lobo Moreno
Aisha – Anais Lone
Sparkz – Nadean Pillay
Pritstick – Marcus Reiss
Stephen – Jake Walden

A co-production between The Big House and New Diorama Theatre. Co-commissioned by New Diorama Theatre.

Booking to 31st May 2024
https://newdiorama.com/

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