The Initiate @ The Roundabout Southbank Centre

Paines Plough comes up with a delightful pop-up theatre concept that is meant to go around the country taking theatre to the people. I applaud such an idea especially as it aims to divulge new writing and I welcome the fresh thoughts that many new playwrights are bringing to the landscape of theatre. Without them, theatre would not be moving forward and we would be living on old stories that are on repeat.

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Simplicity and efficacy are the two words to describe George Perrin’s style of directing in this play. It speaks of a Somali taxi-driver who has lived in London for enough time to call it home. However, his skin colour and ethnicity is still different and he will always be a stranger to the British people. It is to this climate of suspicion and prejudice that arrives the news that Somali pirates have seized a British couple and are asking for a ransom. After his son’s been bullied at school for looking like one of the pirates, this particularly moves Dalmar – our cab driver – into action. He himself flies to Somalia, having fundraised money for the ransom and attempts negotiation.

Three actors form the cast: Sidney Cole as Dalmar and Sian Reese-Williams along with Abdul Salis embodying all of the other minor characters. They all do a tremendous job at keeping us engaged throughout a lengthy play with no set to behold at and barely any physical actions. The circular movement of the characters is spurred by the tension in the dialogue and it also conveniently gives the audience different perspectives of the scene as this is set in the round. It definitely is an interesting plot with intense performances, however I didn’t quite feel the danger of the high-stake situations.

The play is heavily based on Alexandra Wood’s words, but we know that theatre is not just text, and perhaps I would have enjoyed watching other sides to these characters rather than just hearing the words they speak. Often there is a lot we mean to say but never say it – this is a characteristic of contemporary speech and it is down to the director and performers to read what is not written and to perform beyond the words in the page. 3.5/5

Review written by Sofia Moura.

The Initiate is currently showing at the Southbank Centre until Sunday 12th July. For more information on the production, visit here…

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