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Rogue State Theatre Company presents

 

A DAY AT THE RACISTS

 

Writer: Anders Lustgarten

 

Director: Ryan McBryde

 

Designer: Mila Sanders

 

Finborough Theatre

 

2 – 27 March 2010

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

From the top of my head, I would say that I’ve been to the Finborough Theatre twice before. The first, Apart from George, was the heartbreaking story of a man unable to cope after losing his job. The second, Hurried Steps, exposed the realities of domestic violence in a powerful verbatim performance, complete with bookending open discussion. On the surface, two very unrelated subject matters; but there is a common theme that runs through both that paints a picture of what the Finborough Theatre represents – both plays were a mirror on the world today. Extremely relevant, with a concerted effort to mesh the performance with the education, the Finborough ends up producing hard-hitting and thought-provoking theatre.

So, in some ways, you could say that A Day At The Racists, by Anders Lustgarten, is the third of the trilogy for me. Giving the platform to a subject that is on the tips of the British tongue – the BNP – the theatre attempts to entertain and inform simultaneously once again. The result is a very powerful and emotionally charged piece of theatre that is a must-watch.

The story centres on Pete Case (Julian Littman), a former Labour Party organiser who has become disillusioned by the party’s broken promises, now struggling with no employment. His main concern is son Mark (Sam Swainsbury), who has a young daughter to look after and is unable to find proper housing. Hope comes in the form of Gina (Thusitha Jayasundera), the British National Party’s representative for the borough, offering answers to the questions that Pete has. It is the influx of immigrants into the community that are taking all the jobs and getting first dibs on all the housing. According to Gina, it’s not a racial issue but a genuine problem with the local community, something she will be improving. Pete gets drawn in and joins the party; it is not a popular decision amongst this friends and family, though, and things get a lot worse before they show signs of improvement.

The strength of the production lies mainly in the subject matter. The growth of the BNP has been a major talking-point over the last couple of years, and this play does a very good job of showing just how easy it is for individuals to be sucked in to their ideals. Pete is the everyman, representing our mentality and our thoughts and concerns. The mistakes he makes resonate so much more with us, and that’s a testament to Lustgarten’s script. The production does start slowly but, post-interval, the action really picks up and builds to a strong climax.

To fully enjoy a production, the acting has to be good; and considering just how much I did enjoy A Day At The Racists, I find it strange that I wasn’t so keen on the performances. The acting was solid for the most part, and especially strong at crucial moments. However, many of the characters felt either too archetypal or simply underdeveloped. Julian Littman as Pete is strong, but it really felt like the character was channelling Delboy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses, and that irked me a little. Gwilym Lloyd and Nick Holder, as members of the BNP, had great stage presence, but were very one-dimensional. They seemed to be portrayed as being just bad people, rather than flawed and layered. Jayasundera had a very interesting character to portray but, again, the performance just didn’t seem to be there on the night. For me, Sam Swainsbury was the best when I was there. His portrayal of Mark was sensational, moving through emotional states effortlessly and stealing a scene every time he was in it.

But as I mentioned earlier, though the performances weren’t the strongest on the night, this was still a very strong and powerful piece of theatre. The real pull of this play is its subject matter, and the script intelligently informs the audience of what has led to the BNP’s rise and where it is going from here. There are tiny hints in the play that the BNP isn’t all bad, and that there is some truth in what they say; but the ultimate message is that, right now, it is not a party to support. A Day At the Racists is definitely an excellent attempt at political theatre and, with improved character development, this could be a sensational production.

 

 

Box Office: 0844 847 1652

http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Tues-Sat Evenings: 7.30pm. Sat Matinees: 3pm (from 13 March 2010). Sun Matinees: 3pm.

Prices for Weeks 1 and 2 (2-14 March) – Tickets £13, £9 concessions, except Tuesday Evenings £9 all seats, and Saturday evenings £13 all seats.

Prices for Weeks 3 and 4 (16-27 March) – Tickets £15, £11 concessions, except Tuesday Evenings £11 all seats, and Saturday evenings £15 all seats.

Post-Show Discussions: Thursday 18 March & Wednesday 24 March

Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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