This Place We Know
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A review of 'Terrorism' and 'The Rest of Your Life', two of the six plays in 'This Place We Know'
While the Bush Theatre is closed for redevelopment, it’s taken over a bunch of venues on the Uxbridge Road – churches, bars, schools –for six new short plays supposedly celebrating the diverse community of Shepherd’s Bush, under the umbrella ‘This Place We Know’.
Strange, then, that of the two plays staged at the press performance, neither Kenny Emson’s ‘Terrorism’ nor Barney Norris’s ‘The Rest of Your Life’ feel especially rooted in W12; bar the odd reference to Westfield, they could be set anywhere. Intense two-handers, both offer sharp snapshots of personal power struggles, but there’s no sense of a wider context or community.
Still, there is a degree of cuteness to the venues. A flat above the old Walkabout pub becomes a cheap ‘fuckpad’ in ‘Terrorism’; the audience voyeuristically watches a couple’s affair through blown-out walls. Brief scenes whizz through three years of sexually-charged encounters, from gleeful sneakiness to bitter recrimination. Two pair lay down the rules at the start: their other lives, spouses and children, shall never intrude in this place. But life is never that neat.
It may not provide any striking new revelations about human nature, but Emson’s play is acidly comic and tartly written, swerving sentimentality or judginess. Eleanor Matsuura is especially good as smirking Alpha-businesswoman Nadia, who presumably lends the play its incendiary title: at one point she claims to want to put a bomb ‘under the whole idea of monogamy’. But will she ever really leave her family? That’s the thing with infidelity: someone always gets blown apart.
And so to Bar FM, a scuzzy basement karaoke dive of the sort that’s frankly alarming to be in sober… Waj Ali plays Nick, a barman closing up when in walks a chatty, curious woman named Hannah (Rakie Ayola). What follows is a tense cat-and-mouse game, in which it’s slowly revealed that Hannah is a heavy, there to prevent Nick from revealing a dark secret from his past. Nasty stories are emerging and they – some unspecified, wealthy, powers-that-be – don’t want it to look like there was a cover-up.
This feels like the stuff of a multi-part TV drama, not a taut, short two-hander, and despite focused performances, ‘The Rest of Your Life’ feels somewhat undeveloped, relying on a general sense of menace. And there’s no karaoke either.
BY: HOLLY WILLIAMS