Hailed as ‘the UK’s fastest growing innovative Black theatre company’, Tell Tarra latest production tells the story of Cornellius (Aymer), a newly retired Jamaican who’s keen to return to the country of his birth. Having assumed his wife Precious (an excellent Marcia Mantack) has the same ideas he’s begun preparations for the pair of them to be on their way ‘back home’ first thing in the New Year. But Precious has other plans and after she finally asserts herself in ways she’s only dreamed of, Cornellius is forces to make a life altering choice – one that will affect the whole family.
King of the Castle is a well observed; laugh out loud comedy that depicts the idiosyncrasies and characteristics of a Caribbean family brilliantly. The script contains lines and dialogue that I – coming from a West Indian family – instantly recognised and it was a real pleasure to see the West Indian culture represented so well on stage. The scenes between Cornellius and Precious were most enjoyable and I found myself continually amused by the way they spoke and treated one another. One of my favorite lines has to be, ‘woman – feed me before me tun senile!’ which Cornellius shouted at Precious after waiting too long for his dinner. While thoroughly entertaining everyone from a Jamaican/Caribbean background the plot of the play is told in a way that doesn’t exclude, and the humor of this family’s life can be enjoyed by all.
However JB Rose’s script isn’t faultless and the playwright plays to the story’s strength as a comedy above everything else. With the exception of Cornellius and Previous the other characters are far less detailed and plot points pertaining to their stories are often skimmed over. For example the reasons behind Barbara (Cornellius and Precious’s eldest daughter) and her husband Hilton’s split seem superficial and unconvincing and the same could be said about second daughter Carlene; her character bring nothing vital to the story or family dynamic.
To further reflect this Geoff Aymer and Marcia Mantack give the best performances of the show with each of them portraying their characters vividly; I instantly became more engaged every time either of them set foot on stage. Angela Michaels direction overall works well and she’s done a good job crafting the play to fit the small space in the Hackney Studio, however at times the changes in between scenes were a tad too long.
King of the Castle also contains a post show talk with the director and cast, who remain in character. This was a great addition to the play and from the involvement on the night I went it was clear to see the predominately Afro-Caribbean audience thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Playing at two more venues across London King of the Castle is an enjoyable family show that while at times lacks in character development, will ensure you leave the theatre smiling.
Cast: Geoff Aymer, Marcia Mantack, Chizzy Akudolu, Dionne Mitchell, Ashley J and Billy Reid
King of the Castle by JB Rose will be playing at the following venues:
The Hackney Empire then on London tour:
The Albany Theatre (www.thealbany.org.uk) Dates: 10th, 11th &12th Dec 2009
Rich Mix (www.richmix.org.uk) Dates: 17th, 18th & 19th Dec 2009
Reviewed By Karla Williams