Review: Small Island, National Theatre

Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island comes to life most beautifully in this adaptation by Helen Edmundson at the National Theatre

“How come they know nothing about their own empire?”

There’s something glorious about Small Island, its epic scale suiting the National Theatre to a tee as a story about marginalised communities finally breaks free from the Dorfman… Andrea Levy’s novel was memorably adapted for television in 2009 and Helen Edmundson’s version is no less adventurous as it refashions the narrative into a linear story of just over three hours and stellar impact with its focus here on three key characters whom circumstance pushes all together.

Jamaicans Hortense and Gilbert with their respective dreams of being a teacher and a lawyer, and Lincolnshire farm daughter Queenie, all searching for their own version of escape and all unprepared for the consequences of smashing headfirst into the real world. For dreams of the ‘motherland’ prove just that for these first-generation immigrants shocked by the hostility of post-war Britain. And Queenie’s hopes of freedom are curtailed as she finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage to bank clerk Bernard. Continue reading “Review: Small Island, National Theatre”

Review: If We Were Older, National Theatre

Alice Schofield’s New Views-winning play If We Were Older is an absolute triumph at the National Theatre – a bright new talent is discovered

“An old woman is staring at me holding hands with a girl on the tube…”

Wowzers! I was hoping for an enjoyable afternoon catching up on some of the plays that were shortlisted for the National Theatre’s New Views teen playwriting competition, but I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by the one that was victorious. If We Were Older by Alice Schofield (a student of CAPA College, Wakefield) proves a more than worthy winner and absolutely, completely, worth junking your plans for late Friday afternoon so that you can catch its final performance. 

On finally getting round to watching Patrick Gale’s Man in an Orange Shirt, I was left a tad disappointed in the conventionally linear way it explored its dual timestreams. And it is tempting to think that Schofield might have felt the same way, as as her characters Maggie and Daisy have a little contretemps on the tube, the fallout in which she explores each of their personal histories is beautifully commingled, their stories intricately entwined as we discover they’re so much more alike than they could ever know. Continue reading “Review: If We Were Older, National Theatre”