Not Black and White: Seize the Day

This event has now finished. Until Dec 16 2009

© Tristram Kenton

Time Out says  

Posted: Tue Nov 10 2009

Kwame Kwei-Armah's plays are always pertinent and his feisty production of his own new piece, 'Seize the Day', takes a fun and provocative look at what might happen if London had a black candidate for mayor. Celebrity culture, media stereotypes, and nifty use of filmed footage collide in the promising opening, in which black TV presenter Jeremy Charles (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) is accidentally caught on camera slapping down a knife-wielding black teenager whose crew have cornered a lone victim. His overnight fame as a have-a-go hero catapults him into the cynical arms of a faction of ethnic minority politicos, who see him as the candidate who could woo white voters. But when he starts mentoring Lavelle (the kid with the blade), he's forced to account for distance from his own roots.

It's a lot to pack in to one evening. Kwei-Armah's moral maze of a play has so many forking paths that it's easy to get lost in the deges. The busy plotting leaves the female characters looking like meagre stereotypes: the battle for Jeremy's soul is dodgily symbolised by the contest between his white wife (a frigid miseriguts) and his black mistress (a sexy, supportive do-gooder who loves to dance). Holdbrook-Smith plays Charles as well-meaning, repressed and mediocre, making it even more improbable when his hard-nosed political adviser Jennifer (Jaye Griffiths) makes a pass at him as well.

It's easy to sympathise with Kwei-Armah's cynicism about politicians, and it produces some enjoyable dirty tricks dialogue. But 'Seize the Day' is so crammed with arguments that some of its parallels converge: compromising with white society and being corrupted by it are too closely combined, especially in the figure of chief fixer Howard Jones (Karl Collins), who vanishes in a puff of indistinct fraud allegations. The play veers from satire to urban fairy tale to make that point in the Lavelle/Jeremy storyline: Kwei-Armah gives the misunderstood youngster (an exceptionally charismatic Aml Ameen) the freshest, most inspiring voice in the play. But he also over-garlands him with admirable qualities (it transpires that his motives for the stabbing were impeccably chivalrous, his GCSE results were brilliant, and his 'mentor' can only learn from his authentic identity and crusading political attitude). Hegemonies, like politicians, make fair targets. And 'Seize the Day' seizes the opportunity offered by the Tricycle's 'Not Black and White' season to tackle the issues that politicians fear to touch. If it had fewer issues and more delicate moral shades, it would get an even bigger vote of confidence.

Tricycle details

Tricycle, 269 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JR


Kilburn's compact answer to the Barbican comes in the shape of cinema-cum-theatre, the Tricycle. Aiming to be a one-stop shop for cultured north...

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