October 11, 2008

All Guns Blazing on Airwaves

The energy crackling off the stage in this production is enough to power a small town. After the 65-minute performance the players' batteries must be drained.

Certainly the atmosphere is electric: not surprising, perhaps, since the play itself was developed by award-winning writer Fin Kennedy in collaboration with young people.

The intention was to ensure that the cross-cultural inner-city life it depicts is rendered in authentic language. It is underscored by a contemporary soundtrack by international music artist DJ Billy Biznizz.

The location for the narrative is the 20th floor of an abandoned East End tower block where Blaze, a Caribbean MC, and Riqi, a Muslim DJ, are the stars of a local pirate radio station.

Everything is fine until along comes Zahida, a disruptive girl who can match them at their tasks, but whose special skill is as a photographer. Then outside pressures intervene. Blaze has to do a favour for a local gangster, which entails hiding a revolver and drugs in the studio.

There follow increasingly heated discussions about their comparative religions and gun crime, which become acrimonious and, worryingly, inadvertently broadcast. They try to defuse the situation by substituting the name Twix for the revolver. Finally they are raided by the police.

The show demonstrates that religious and ethnic differences need be no barrier to mutual understanding.

The dialogue is mostly rapped. It must be a generational thing, as I actually caught only about one word in 10, but this proved no barrier to my enjoyment of the production, which also included integrated synchronised movement and dance of the kind to which Frantic Assembly have accustomed us.

And it would be hard to better the three actors: Lee Hardy as Tariq, initially known as Riqi, Ashley J as Blaze, and Ambur Khan as Zahida. Constantly riveting, this is an exciting example of a contemporary show essentially designed for young people.

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