‘Could have been written 30 days ago’: LEAVE TAKING – Bush Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Bush Theatre, London – until 30 June 2018
Guest reviewer: Joanna Trainor

Sometimes you can question why a theatre has chosen a particular moment to produce a revival of a show. This is not one of those times. Leave Taking might have been written 30 years ago, but our government’s current attitude to migrants means it could have been written 30 days ago. Madani Younis’ direction has a timeless quality to it and we’re given no real indication of when it’s set from the costume or stage design.

What feels really on the nose is “Uncle” Brod’s story about having to pay for nationalisation when he was a British citizen after coming to England many years ago. Where have we heard that story before? I wonder how far into the future this will continue to resonate with people living at that time.

Winsome Pinnock’s award-winning play tells the story of Enid Matthews, a first generation immigrant from Jamaica and her two daughters  – Del and Viv – as they try and make sense of their conflicting cultural identities.

Unfortunately, Nicholle Cherrie’s Viv lacks the maturity the role needs. Viv’s concerns about her impending future have no real impetus, feeling more like a toddler’s tantrums, than a young woman searching for who she is and where she stands in the world. It’s all a little too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but her relationship with trouble-maker sister Del has a beautiful realism as they love and hate each other in equal measure. They fizz around the stage in their scenes together.

But this show belongs to Sarah Niles. Enid Matthews’ moments of silence and contemplation are deafening before she finishes the first act by admitting “I want to go home.” Up until this point, Enid has put up this front of being very proud of her new life in England, describing her daughters as “English girls”, and only letting the mask slip when visiting an obeah woman. Her commitment to giving her family a proper life, it’s as much of an obligation for Enid as it feels a burden for her daughters. But as everything around her unravels, Enid has to deal with the reality of her circumstances, and Niles gives an incredibly touching performance.

Coming out of the Bush I walked past a man speaking with a thick Belfast accent and had a think about my mix of cultural identities. Leave Taking is a stunning production and one I think our political leaders would highly benefit from seeing.

Laura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
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Laura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.