What a treat to see a good old-fashioned, well-made play with solid characters about proper social issues. Alright, writer Arinze Kene’s drama creaks a bit, but that’s probably just the sound of its straining intensity.
Set in Deptford 1982, ‘God’s Property’ is about Chima, a big brother from a mixed-race family who returns home after ten years in prison for killing a local white girl. Sadly for him, his skinhead little brother Onochie doesn’t want to know him any more, partly because he hates the colour of his skin, but also because he’s got a nice white girlfriend and he wants to keep her.
First and foremost this is a play about colour and the uneasy social ferment of the early 1980s. Kene sides with the Nigerian half of the brothers’ racial mix and takes an openly pessimistic view of a racially mixed society, with the little brother insisting his skinhead band doesn’t mind blacks: ‘It’s the Pakis we don’t like’. Kene suggests that in the end colour will out and people can only count on their own. For many today that is the ghetto reality of multiculturalism.
Whatever the message, Michael Buffong’s production is funny, feisty and refreshing, with Ellen Cairns’s endearingly chintzy set suffering a design hangover from the ’70s. As the skinhead Onochie, Ash Hunter is a sweet sixteen-year-old desperate to fit in and keep out of trouble. Ria Zmitrowicz is a cheeky teenage minx both telling Onochie off and leading him on. And there’s a nice turn from Bradley Gardner as the sweaty, cowardly racist who lives opposite.
But best of all is Kingsley Ben-Adir, effortlessly charismatic as the seen-it-all Chima, whose violent tales of life inside the nick have reinforced his sense of black pride. Patrick Marmion