To delicately and sensitively document the swathes of the youth population who are cast adrift in the outliers of society is always a road laced with difficulties. There is the fear that playwrights – usually in spite of a desire to ‘do the right thing’ – will portray the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder in a lopsided fashion; with either too much illicit glamour or as an environment too bleakly depressing.
This is why there is room at the table for a drama that looks upon the world and its inhabitants in a more rounded fashion; people as more than mere archetypes; more than two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. Into the fray comes POT. Based on material written by Ambreen Razia and equipped with a female-focused narrative, this is a taut and street-savvy chamber play that deals with consequence, redemption, learning and growing.
Pumped to bursting point with both sass and agitation, 16-year old Louisa (Sophia Leonie), awakes from a heavy night to find herself in a dilapidated apartment with which she’s unfamiliar. Around her, crumpled beer cans and a tattered old couch offer no sense of comfort or qualm her concerns at all. She finds Miles (Gamba Cole) present too. This stranger to her, replete with old Arsenal football shirt and uneasy gait, is in possession of the knowledge as to why she is there, but Louisa is too concerned over the whereabouts of her beloved dealer lover, Josh, and whether rival Mark is on the rampage after a botched job and an act of violence.
The snappy dialogue and colloquial patter sink down with ease and makes for an engaging experience. As matters progress, the topics shift (arguably a little clunkily, in what is the only real quibble to this otherwise effective production) into an existentialistic gear. The level of reasoning makes overtures to subjects grander than the face value issues at hand, and Razia just about veers on the right side of sermonising. The conclusion provides food for thought and departs on a judiciously measured note.
POT is a prescient, timely and engaging account of gang life. The fact that this account discusses this subject in such a mature manner and speaks with authenticity is a brilliant bonus. It is also helped by the fact that it is underpinned by some truly fine acting performances that signpost actors to look out for in the future. POT has a lot to say and it says it ebulliently. It is not an empty vessel though. On the contrary, the noise it offers is one that needs to be tuned into and turned up to eleven.
Review by Greg Wetherall
In the year that has seen knife crime in the UK soar to an unprecedented level, writer and actress Ambreen Razia, whose hugely successful Diary of a Hounslow Girl has been commissioned by BBC Three for a pilot, presents the corrupt and violent world of inner-city gang culture. Ambreen will once again be collaborating with director Sophie Moniram, one of The Old Vic 12 class of 2018.
POT delves into the lives of Britain’s invisible children, adrift in the care system and inadvertently impacted by gang culture.16-year-old Louisa wakes up in a flat on her estate with her erratic and unstable boyfriend Josh missing and a notorious drug dealer on her back. A young man, Miles, who is clearly concealing his own troubled past has been appointed her protector. Time is running out as Louisa must decide whether to do the right thing whilst a series of revelations suggest everything is not as it seems.
Directed by Sophie Moniram Written by Ambreen Razia
Dramaturgy by Neil Grutchfield Produced by Maeve O’Neill (Rua Arts)
Design & Costume by Alison Neighbour Sound design by Jonny Wharton
Lighting design by Jamie Platt Production management by Andy Shewan
Photography by Suzi Corker Graphic design by Nick Thompson
Cast: Gamba Cole, Sophia Leonie and Wahab Sheikh
Ambreen Razia, Ovalhouse and Rua Arts present:
From the writer of Diary of a Hounslow Girl, a restless new thriller reveals the hidden lives of Britain’s invisible children, adrift in the care system at the mercy of gang culture
Written by Ambreen Razia | Directed by Sophie Moniram
National tour: 26 September – 26 October 2018
26-29 Sept Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London
Theatre Square, London E15 1BX
2 Oct Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham
Beaumont St, Hexham NE46 3LS
4 Oct Brighton Dome at Dorothy Stringer School, Brighton
Loder Rd, Brighton BN1 6PZ
5 Oct The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre, Taunton
Coal Orchard, Taunton TA1 1JL
9 – 20 Oct Ovalhouse, London
Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW
25 Oct Old Fire Station, Oxford
George St, Oxford OX1 2AQ
26 Oct Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London
Town Hall Approach Rd, London N15 4RX