A few years ago, Winsome Pinnock was regarded as the foremost young black female writer of her generation. Then she seemed to disappear. Had she migrated like so many others into tv soap land? Well, she's back, with a play that says whilst away, she hasn't been idle. For One Under shows a sweet maturity and sense of modern, multicultural London life just-getting-on-with-it all too rarely represented on stage.
Matthew Wright's wonderful tapering set takes us right into the dark, subterranean world of the London Underground. Someone has died, throwing themselves under the tracks. Louise Yates' Mags is left trying to comfort Brian Bovell's traumatised train-driver, Cyrus. Are we in for another issue-based drama highlighting the after-effects on public sector workers dealing, day in, day out, with the general public?
Far from it. Before we finally get to grips with who and why the suicide decided on self-immolation, we have gone on a far less obvious journey that takes in guilt, death and adoption in a style that borders on the mystical along with the jocular and colloquial. If that sounds like a strange concoction, you'd be right. There is something elusive about Pinnock's style. But also something affectingly big-hearted.
The real star of One Under is Pinnock's preference for showing the generosity of spirit of which people can be capable rather than their underbelly. Black or white; first and foremost for Pinnock, all are human beings.
True, the plotline of One Under is pretty convoluted and frequently stretches credulity. Suffice it to say that Cyrus's search for redemption involves Daon Broni's young adoptee, Sonny, Lynn Farleigh's Nella, the white middle-class woman who adopted him and Adie Allen's launderette manager, Christine, in various degrees of familial and coincidental relationships. Such permutations nonetheless constantly serve to remind us of their individuals' emotional complexity - the conflicting drives of identity, salvation and escapism - whilst always leaving us, one way or another, on their side.
In a production by Jennie Darnell notable for its moody jazz motif (courtesy of sound designer, Fergus O'Hare), Allen's Christine stands out for her pugnacity. But all add their weight, not least Geoffrey Burton in whose portrait of a kindly, self-deprecating Tube cleaner - `married to the same woman three times. Three different women but they all end up becoming the same woman' - beats the play's quiet soul.
- Carole Woddis