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By Ashmeed Sohoye


Directed by Natalie Wilson


 Oval House Theatre


16 Jan – 20 Feb 2010







A review by James Fritz for EXTRA! EXTRA!

An honest examination of life on a British council estate, Ashmeed Sohoye’s Rigged is a simple yet affecting play anchored by four strong performances and some delicate and intuitive direction. Essentially a distillation of the various problems affecting those on the poverty line, the play manages the difficult task of making these issues engaging for its intended younger audience without compromising the intention or quality of the dialogue. There is nothing more off-putting – or more alienating – than overusing street talk and stereotypes to make political youth theatre seem relevant, and thankfully Sohoye has realised that a believable story and well drawn characters are a far more effective way of dealing with challenging socio-political subjects.  Rigged ultimatelyhas more in common with Osborne than N-Dubz.

Our protagonist is Nathan (Kyle Summercorn), a bullish and temper-prone but ultimately good-natured seventeen - year old who has recently been forced out of school. When his addiction to fruit machines provokes a violent outburst, he is landed with an ASBO and suddenly begins to see the difficulties of the life he has ahead of him. As soon as his equally young girlfriend announces she is pregnant, the prospect of bringing a new life into the world puts things even more into perspective and he determines to escape his class and heritage and make something of himself.

Rigged looks at some big issues, including addiction, violence, poverty and teenage pregnancy, but the main through line here is the futility of the class system. Despite the best efforts of each of the likeable characters, the cyclical nature of poverty is hammered home as we see the young Nathan re-enacting the mistakes of his mother before her very eyes. The continued references to the violent nature of his absent father brings the age old nurture/nature conflict into sharp focus; by the end we are left to wonder how much say someone like Nathan ever has in their destiny. 

Each of the cast are good value, crafting believable characters that are somehow likeable and sympathetic despite their obvious flaws. Summercorn has the hardest job, having been dealt a character who, in the wrong hands could easily have descended into cliché, but thankfully his performance is perfectly judged and at times exceptionally touching. Niamh Webb is equally strong as his suitably sweet and naïve girlfriend, whilst Paul Clerkin lends a poignancy to the browbeaten stepfather that is felt even more keenly as it is revealed that he is just as clueless and pig-headed as his stepson. However it is Daisy Whyte as Nathan’s illiterate and broken mother who really shines, instilling her body and voice with the weariness and cynicism of one for whom life has been an eternal struggle. The sequence where she seamlessly switches accents whilst re-enacting a confrontation with a snooty headmistress is truly electrifying.

The play is well handled by director Natalie Wilson, who employs a succession of repeated physical and verbal ticks to lend the production an artful and energetic quality, whilst Neil Irish’s intelligent and sparse design should be applauded.

What is ultimately most striking is how Rigged refuses to pull any punches. The tragic climax has a sad and terrifying inevitability about it, Sohoye showing us that sometimes happy endings are just too hard to come by. The evening is definitely a cut above your average ‘issues’ play.  



Box Office: 02075827680

52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW
Tickets: £12/£6 concessions





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