Warde Street** (Tristan Bates Theatre, 20 August 2013)

Posted: August 21, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

On 7 July 2005, the day after London’s triumph in being chosen to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, the City was rocked by a devastating terrorist attack instigated by Islamic extremists. This one act play sets out to show how the aftermath of that attack continues to haunt our society long after the Games have become history. The opening scene sees an ambitious politician (Cameron Harris) arguing with his Muslim partner (Avita Jay) over his reluctance to associate himself with her brother (Omar Ibrahim) who is to stand trial for killing an intruder into his home; the intruder had already murdered his wife for reasons believed to be connected with the 7/7 atrocity. The point of this scene appears to be to demonstrate that politicians are weasels, too eager to turn their backs on moral obligations if their actions could cost them votes. Unfortunately, none of this convinces because the actors are struggling to cope with banal and stilted dialogue throughout. We then move back in time and to Warde Street in Manchester, the scene of the two killings, and the play gathers some momentum. The intruder, Eddie, a drunken Irishman and old friend of the Muslim couple, had lost his pregnant partner at Kings Cross on 7/7 and, whether through drunkenness or warped logic, attributes blame not just to the extremist bombers but to the Muslim community as a whole; this notwithstanding that he had first arrived in Manchester shortly after the IRA bombings there and had himself been the victim of similar irrational prejudice. Playing Eddie, Shane Noone gives the production’s only really commendable performance. He transcends the colourless writing and makes us feel the acute pain of a man whose entire life had been torn from him in a split second of random madness. Warde Street sets out to tackle important issues, but does not dig deep enough below the surface and offers no new insights. The play’s structure confuses its themes and its messages become muddled by over-elaborate plotting. If it works in parts as a human drama, this is thanks largely to one outstanding performance, but, in providing a serious commentary on fractures in our society, it falls well short.

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