Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksJames Hillier (Steve), Adelle Leonce (Angel), Jamael Westman (Brotha), Lorna Brown (Aunty L) and Osy Ikhile (Couzin)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksAdelle Leonce (Angel) and Roger Griffiths (Brian)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksFranc Ashman (2nd Twin)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksAdelle Leonce (Angel) and James Hillier (Steve)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksKirsty Bushell (Aunty J)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksJamael Westman (Brotha)
 (© Helen Maybanks)
© Helen MaybanksAdelle Leonce (Angel) and Lorna Brown (Aunty L)

A brutal family epic from Nathaniel Martello-White

Sometimes you’ll visit an elderly relative, and they’ll reveal a horde of long-hidden opinions: which child was their favourite, which one had the nicest eyes, which one they left on the bus once and had to go back for. It’s too late to tiptoe.

Nathaniel Martello-White’s brutal family drama is about three generations who never learnt to tread carefully, or at least didn’t feel the need to. Nine relatives sit in a ring of plastic chairs and let rip: old arguments, messed-up memories and shock revelations.

A lot of ‘Torn’s power to disconcert comes from the way Martello-White’s text uncompromisingly hones in on the racial politics of this sprawling mixed race family. The light-skinned matriarch 1st Twin (characters are named for their role in the dynasty) marries a white man, and her darker-skinned first two children are left unloved and forgotten. Angel, her daughter, suffers most: Adelle Leonce’s performance is painfully raw, as she throws herself at a mother who doesn’t want to carry her any more. 1st Twin’s steely social climbing is explained by glimpses of her mother, who raised her and her sisters in loveless squalor. The story skips through decades at exhilarating speed: lose focus for a moment and you’ll miss out on years. But this speed, combined with the tautness of director Richard Twyman’s hold over the nine-strong cast, manages to make the cliched structure of the gradual revelation of a family secret feel fresh.

There’s not an inch of fat to spare as Martello-White carves up this family with surgical precision. It’s a hugely impressive achievement - but like the ice-cold matriarchs that stalk through it, it’s not easy to love.

By: Alice Savile


Average User Rating

3 / 5

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1 person listening

I've only recently discovered the Royal Court and as a venue I love it! 

This was my first time in the 4th floor Jerwood Studio. 

You know it's going to be intense as you walk into the basic room. An audience of less than 100 - an actress already poised in the middle. This play is an amazing feat of acting - 9 actors - no set - story told through juxtaposition of character and relationship via (often angry and emotional) dialogue that goes back forwards in time. The plot/narrative is serious and should be harrowing and gripping. Somehow it didn't quite punch me in the guts the way it could have done. This may be because I had a slightly awkward seat offset from the action. 

For me the mixture of raw and poetic often slightly awkward dialogue didn't ring true coming out of the characters mouths. Some of the words just didn't seem like words that would be used in regular conversation. That said there wasn't a moments peace and you have to admire the performance. 

If you love trying new theatre this is worth a go -and I will definitely look out for more things at the Royal Court in general and for things by this writer and the actors involved.