No Man's Island - The Big House
A fire has been lit at The Big House
A pirate radio station operating out of a small flat in North London blasts out the latest jungle and grime tunes interspersed with brutally honest interpretations of the events of the time. On air during such deplorable days as the 7/7 bombings and the Grenfell disaster, the station captures the mood of a community in turmoil, attacked for existing and silenced as they express themselves through their music. This new play delivers rage, intensity and soul through the lens of those most affected as they fight to bring about change in a system stacked against them.
Hughbert and his two children have formed a sanctuary in their flat that doubles as the base for their illegal station Blaze FM, a breeding ground for talent and hope. His daughter Aisha is working towards becoming a lawyer and his son Alpha is an aspiring rapper whilst an ensemble of peers rotate through the doors, each of them seeking some sort of shelter and identity. There is a true authenticity and depth to the characters as if a partial extension of the actors themselves. The core characters are nicely fleshed out through the script aiding us to feel as if we are hunkered down in the small flat with them.
The show is framed with drill music, composed by artist Jammz and performed skilfully by the cast, particularly Leo Patrick. By utilising the legitimate, gritty sound of these characters the piece is elevated and vibrant, giving us a sense of who these people are beyond the confines of the story. The lengthy numbers do drastically slow the pace of the plot rather than push it forward and a finer balance could be struck to prevent this from being too severe. The exploration of the genre and how it vocalises the struggles of those performing is ingenious, particularly when arguments are made that it insights violence but this story flips that preconception on its head.
The Big House is a perfect setting for this production, not only for its community work but the way the space has been utilised is fantastic. It nicely expands the performing area and gives scope for the cast to play and settle on stage - not to mention the impressive video projection and the set change for the second half. Anais Lone as Aisha is a notable standout as she tries to bring some order when the obstacles come knocking - her heart-on-her-sleeve approach is nicely executed. As Hughbert, Andrew Brown is strong, attempting to hide his vulnerability as the past risks catching up with him and his dance moves are something to behold!
The love for the story being told is clear in the entirety of the ensemble and director Maggie Norris has clearly struck gold in lighting that fire. As a piece of theatre, it has space to grow and focus to bring the audience along more completely, but the energy emanating from the stage is exciting and I cannot wait to see where these talented performers and creatives go next.
Running until 3 June - Tickets