NW Trilogy: Kiln Theatre
- Credit: Marc Brenner
Set between Enoch Powell's '68 Rivers of Blood speech, and the hot summer of '76, three playwrights tell stories of three migrant communities who share the streets of Brent.
In 'County Kilburn,' newly arrived Aoife is sweeping the floor of the Galtymore Dance Club and getting much-needed advice from long-hauler Katie; on the corner of Neasden Lane, rolling stone reggae musician Riley is having a reckoning with the prickly daughter he abandoned; and in Willesden, exhausted housewife Anjali dithers over signing a petition supporting fellow workers at the Grunwick factory.
All are navigating a hostile environment where they are exploited, shunned or spat on, while dealing with pressures within their own community. There are tropes here; Irish drinking and unwanted pregnancy; a feckless baby father; a downtrodden Asian wife. It's a tough task to unpack them in 40 minutes, but Moira Buffini's delicate Dance Floor is a beautifully-acted poignant study of homesickness and fresh hope. Roy Williams' bittersweet Life of Riley sees father and daughter connect through music and a shared experience of racism, as he exhorts her to 'choose the life you want and hang onto it'.
And in Suhaya El-Bushra's Waking/Walking, Natasha Jayetileke's angry Anjali, delivers a moving speech as she is politicised by the sorority of her work space, and sexism at home.
Taio Lawson and Susie McKenna plait these strands together with fine directorial flourishes. There is both overlap and prejudice between these communities - Katie cannot return to Kerry with her mixed race daughter, while the Asians look down on the rough Irish - but NW Trilogy conjures something of the inter-racial melting pot evoked by Zadie Smith's White Teeth.
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While the first two plays are narrowly focused vignettes, El-Bushra at times overpacks her themes, which suggests that a two-year strike by Asian women over low pay which saw running battles between police and trade unionists along Willesden streets, might deserve a full length treatment. 4/5 Stars.
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