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Proud at The King’s Head Theatre | Review

Life was never meant to be easy. Just when you think it’s all going well, a curveball gets thrown your way and everything you knew gets kicked into touch. In Bren Gosling’s play Proud at the King’s Head Theatre we examine the effect of life’s curveballs on three very different men.

Proud at The King's Head TheatreRoland (Taofique Folarin) has had two major changes in his life recently, and both are related to each other. First, he came out as a gay man, then his wife ejected him from the family home. Having left, he now shares responsibility for their 15-year-old son Gary (Kaine Hatukai) with whom he has always been close, and who now comes to stay at Roland’s flat every fortnight or so. Roland loves his son very much, and at this point has one other major love in his life – basketball.  He plays often on the court in his local park, and it is here that he meets Amir (Andrei Maniata), a street sweeper. Amir, who is a refugee, has his own problems. He suffers from PTSD and, as a consequence of his upbringing and culture, has major problems with accepting himself. With his friendship with the troubled Amir blossoming into something more, and Gary having problems at school, Roland’s life is becoming more complicated than he could ever imagine. But will it all work out and will he be able to get his life back on track?

Proud is a very intriguing story of love and acceptance that packs a lot into its 90 minutes runtime. The problem for me was that it didn’t go far enough. Although it is always good to be left wondering ‘what happens next?’ I felt there were an awful lot of loose ends by the time the lights came down. Although I rarely call for plays to be longer, I do think that Proud could easily have been expanded to a two-act show.

The three characters, Roland, Amir and Gary, are beautifully drawn by writer Bren Gosling and each of them comes across as fully formed individuals trying to make their way in an often confusing and inconsistent world. If I’m honest I must say that as characters, I only really warmed to Amir. I found Roland to be unsympathetic and really lacking in empathy towards both his son and Amir. As for Gary, well there were moments when I found myself thinking that if I had spoken to my father the way Gary did to Roland, I would have been reminded that I wasn’t too old to get a good hiding. However, while I didn’t like the characters, the fact I had such reactions to them speaks volumes to the quality of the acting, and all three should be commended for their demonstration of fine acting.

Justin Nordello’s set is intriguing, using lighting to move the action from a basketball court to Roland’s flat and back again. And Marlie Haco’s direction – which included some very impressive movement routines around Akos Lustyik’s music – was assured and made great use of the space, though as always happens with a thrust stage, there were moments when one of the actors had their back to part of the audience and blocked the view.

Summing up, I thoroughly enjoyed Proud. I think it set out with a certain aim but needed to be expanded to meet everything. However, the story itself is really good and the production works very well.  All in all, though the ending may leave you wanting more, the production is definitely worth seeing.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Writer Bren Gosling
Director & Producer Marlie Haco
Production company Double Telling
Set & Costume Designer Justin Nardella
Composer & Sound Designer Ákos Lustyik
Lighting Designer Ben Jacobs
Stage Manager Martha Baldwin
Associate Producer Tom Woffenden

Roland Taofique Folarin
Amir Andrei Maniata
Gary Kaine Hatukai

22nd February – 12th March 2022
The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, Islington, London, N1 1QN

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