The Westbridge is set in and around a South London estate and begins on the night of a riot. A young Asian girl is believed to have been raped by one of the estate’s black youths and as a result the men from her community have responded to the allegations with violence. Young Black Andre is late home but his mother Audrey (Martin) refuses to believe he’s been out with his friends as he claims. Mixed race Marcus (Ayres) has recently moved in with his half Pakistani girlfriend Soriya (Pandya) however their relationship is also causing a stir.
Before the truth behind the alleged attack finally comes to the surface we are taken on a journey of race, identity and love as we discover the diversity of people behind The Westbridge estate.
Written by Rachel De-lahay, The Westbridge came to the attention of the Royal Court Theatre via one of their many writers’ courses. Like that of follow Royal Court alumni and Olivier Award winning writer Bola Agbaje, the play is Rachel first but has been created with such authenticity and skill you wonder why you haven’t heard her name before. She is able to balance a number of well rounded characters and multiple storylines beautifully and her talent at capturing dialogue is spot on. In particular Audrey played by Jo Martin weaves in an out of Jamaican Patois brilliantly and in a way I only usually hear while en route through Harlesden High Street. She also manages to keep the audience engaged during a 1 hour and 50 minute performance that includes no interval. My only criticism is that about three quarters through she becomes a little heavy handed with plays mixed race politics which is somewhat of a disappointment after her subtle handling thus far.
The play’s USP is the set which uses its location as former office space cleverly. For the first time in my life I’ve been seated on chairs that are spread out in the middle with the stage going around the outside. This meant as an audience member you had to constantly move around to watch the play unfold and while at first I felt this was going to be one of the longest nights of my life, it actually added to the plays appeal and keep me engaged throughout. This is also thanks to the faultless direction from Clint Dyer who having proved himself as an actor is also displayed his unparalleled directing ability.
The cast are all excellent, in particular Daisy Lewis as the Georgina, Chetna Pandya as Soriya and Fraser Ayres as Marcus. This is a great addition at the new Theatre Royal in Peckham which aims to bring relevant theatre to local people.
By Rachel De-lahay
Directed by Clint Dyer
Cast Includes: Fraser Ayres, Jo Martin, Chetna Pandya, Ray Panthaki and Daisy Lewis
Reviewed By Karla Williams
For more information on Theatre Local, Peckham and to book tickets please visit: http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/the-westbridge
Photographer: Keith Pattison