Friday, 18 March 2011

REVIEW Our Style is Legendary

Our Style Is Legendary

By Daniel Hoffmann-Gill
Hard Graft Theatre Company.
Tristan Bates Theatre

Review by Howard Loxton (2011)

This new play is a picture of teenage life on a rundown Nottingham council in the late 1980s and early 90s. Rich White's set (his first - he's a sculptor) is a number of panels that at first suggest concrete blocks or the walls of a pedestrian underpass which can be moved around by the cast to indicate different locations or interiors such as a classroom At the rear, glimpsed between them, are some flowers tied onto a lamp-post, a reminder of some past tragic death.

Roaming around already chatting to the audience as they come in is a character, played by James Hooton (who has been given time off from Emmerdale to appear in this drama), who is swigging beer from a can. He calls himself 'the Swinging Man' (perhaps from the track on the Black Flag's 1984 album My War) and acts as a sort of 'chorus to this history', describing the Nottingham he knows, its posh parts and the not posh, like where this is set, and hovers over some scenes as well as marking time passing through the years to introduce others. He reminds us of Nottingham's coat of arms with its twin stags and the city's motto which gives this play its title. He too is one of the losers from Nottingham's underbelly and his up front vernacular tells it as it is, describing how he 'came home to find mum hanging from the light fittings, piss running down her stretch-marked thighs.'

After his 'welcome' we are presented with a couple of young kids who've just crashed their bikes into each other. Michael is black with no dad, just a cash-strapped mom, while Daniel is white from a rather better-off household, though his dad beats him up. They've both got Raleighs, the bikes made in Nottingham, though Danny's is very much smarter and he lets Michael ride it. Soon they are planning to meet and exchange tapes of their favourite music and the next time we see them Michael is introducing Danny to glue sniffing - wel,l actually Old Spice after-shave. They loath the smell but it still gives them a high.

Succeeding scenes give us glimpses of their lives as they pass through their school years, along with the other members of their 'posse'. Stone, a little older and full of frustrations and bravado, is the heaviest drinker, and soon carries a knife and later a gun. Much more grounded is Shelley, a girl who gets very close to Danny and vainly tries to keep the boys on the straight and narrow.

These kids aren't all stupid and it is not all gloom. There is a delightful school scene, with the Swinging Man leaning in as though he's the teacher, with Danny and Shelley carrying on their own conversation between a more obviously audible dialogue of accurate though ill-accented French. Later Danny and Michael lie back on the grass expressing hopes as well as frustrations and talk about love, even their love for each other, marriage and children.

Director Laura Farnworth has welded her company together, drawing well integrated performances from her players who, though visibly older, all manager to capture the youth of these characters.

Dimeji Sadiq, making his professional debut, is forceful as Michael. Annishia Lunette is also a relative newcomer, not long out of RADA; as Shelley she gives a girl visible growing up with more assurance than the boys. Kent Riley (at 13 already in the West End as the Artful Dodger and with six years behind him in Hollyoaks) plays all the unpleasant side of Stone yet at the same time suggests the vulnerability under his bullying. Stone so longs to be the tough guy and he has to handle a very difficult scene in which he imagines himself like Robocop being riddled with bullets and still not succumbing. That manages to turn horror into pathos. As Danny, Jarrod Cooke, whose television credits seem to include roles in most of the soaps, gives us someone who changes according to which of his friends is currently exerting most influence. It is a subtle performance that is central to the play.

There are times when you feel these teenagers are people you would cross to the other side of the road to avoid but Daniel Hoffman-Gill's play makes you share experience, one with which many will be able to identify and one which, though set twenty years ago, could find many parallels in Britain today. Our Style Is Legendary is not a play that offers either reasons or solutions but a sharing. Though the Swinging Man chorus is very much a theatrical device, the play rings true, perhaps partly because it is directly based on his own experience for it is dedicated to Michael, his best friend who died of an overdose when he was only 16 and the characters' names are the same as those of the real people.

Runs until 2nd April 2011

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

REVIEW Our Style is Legendary


Our Style is Legendary
Published Tuesday 15 March 2011 at 11:04 by Lauren Paxman

Plays about substance abuse are not meant to evoke fond memories of your teenage years. But that is just one of the ways in which Daniel Hoffmann-Gill’s witty dark comedy surprises and delights.

Jarrod Cooke (Danny) Dimeji Sadiq (Michael) in Our Style is Legendary at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Photo: Rich White

We first meet Danny and Michael as well-behaved Nottingham 13-year-olds bonding over eighties hip hop. A couple of scenes (and some Old Spice deodorant-sniffing) later, the best buddies are experimenting with hard drugs - but on the doorstep of A&E in case they accidentally overdose.
The duo’s story is interspersed with that of the Frank Gallagher-esque Swinging Man - so called because the special brew-lover’s feet “never touch the ground”. His is a cautionary tale of violence and alcoholism that, along with the flowers tied to a lamp post, warn the audience what could become of the endearingly believable protagonists.
Hoffman-Gill’s brilliantly-observed script is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, Laura Farnworth’s detailed direction ensures all actors’ performances are stellar - with Hollyoaks’ Kent Riley as ‘glue dealer’ Stone and Emmerdale’s James Hooton as Swinging Man shining extra bright - and Rich White’s first set packs a lot into a small space.
If the ending seems a little abrupt, a quick read of your programme - which tells you that the true story is dedicated to someone called Michael - reveals the tale’s real happy ending.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Bury Met

Well, here I am again trying to get the people - you, to leave the safety of your cave and come and play out. You used to love coming out to play, what happened?

I know there are baby sitter issues and Jamie Oliver's on tonight, but think about the fun you'll have laughing at my S**T career (If the Sun and the Mirror can swear like this, I can swear like this).

When Will I Be Famous
7.30pm Bury Met

Here's what "the people" have said

"Best Monday night I've had in years, really funny and moving" Sharon Brighton
"Absolutely Wonderful" Phylm London
"one of the best performances we've witnessed in a long while" Dave B London
"Please keep on writing - superb evening - real entertainment. Matlock.
"Absolutely brilliant and extremely funny" Danny Loughorough
"Extremely funny! Had me crying in places. Keep up the good work. Will definatly come to the next performance" Kate Nottingham
"Absolutely great! script, acting, everything!" Loughborough
"Very enjoyable and witty! very good morals too." Marie Edinburgh
"Really made me think" Excellent." Kim Edinburgh