The Westbridge by Rachel De-Lahay – Royal Court Theatre – Review

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Ryan Calais Cameron as Andre

I’m always amazed at how they transform the Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre. Last night as I entered there was a matrix of chairs facing this way and that, with the stage built around the edge of the seats. Theatre in the round in reverse is the best way to describe it. Just for the record this was a preview performance that I went to see. It officially opens on 30th Nov.

The play centres on the lives of a community in London, that live near the notorious Westbridge estate. Referred to ominously as “The Westbridge” by characters. An assault has happened there and the community of characters we see show how they deal with it. This is no neat “social play” though, Rachel De-Lahay provides some really dramatic moments, and shows the strains amongst our communities. Especially between the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities in our land. Everyone’s trying to make sense of the senselessness around them.

It was refreshing to see a truly multicultural cast and with each character displaying their good points and their bad points too. This felt like a fair portrait of our communities. There are some tense dramatic moments, and some real laugh out loud moments too. There’s a great scene where Soriya takes her boyfriend Marcus round to her fathers for the first time and this is played out with them sitting at other ends of the theatre. The intimacy is maintained but the chasm between them is clearly visible. Clint Dyer’s direction is fast paced but allows the audience to keep up.

Shavani Seth and Ryan Calais Cameron

The cast give very strong performances. I especially like the interaction between Chetna Pandya’s character Soriya and Fraser Ayres portrayal of Marcus. Ravi Aujla as the weary Saghir was superb. Ryan Calais Cameron depiction of the youth in trouble Andre was excellent, as he went from cool boy trying to be hard, to heartbroken teen.

This is Rachel De-Lahay’s first script, I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

STARS: * * * *

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