Working with ex-offenders and young people at risk of crime, Only Connect aim to use their experiences to create theatre which engages with issues of violence and criminality in an effort to rehabilitate and educate. Their current offering, His Teeth, is inspired by the experiences of Ralph Ojotu and tells the story of Eric Adegeye (Kareem Dauda) who swaps a life of hustling in Nigeria for a life of trafficking and forced labour in London.
Played in the round with a screen box in the centre, inside of which all the action takes place, this intriguing set up could be alienating but Mic Pool’s clever video design makes the screens an effective tool contextualising every scene and giving the production a powerful sense of immediacy. Flipping from Adegeye’s face close-up and on every screen to leafy forests and looping CCTV images the projections are never gratuitous and, coupled with Ed Clark’s simple but spot-on sound design, knit the whole piece together.
Adegeye soon falls in love with crack-addict Sarah (played with jumpy accuracy by Eleanor Wyld), who also happens to be the girlfriend of the villain of the piece Derek (Junior ‘Mila' Miller), and the story propels towards a fairly predictable conclusion.
Ben Musgrove’s script lacks a certain elegance, feeling disjointed and bitty, so whilst the piece asks big questions about home and belonging, attitudes to immigrants and the plight of “illegals”, some of the action seems too much like required plot development rather than organic storytelling and social commentary.
But these limitations don’t prevent the entire cast from giving strong performances with Dauda’s energy, Miller’s edge, Dymond Allen’s suitably simpering middle-man Roger and Moses Gomes-Santos, who plays newly migrated George, giving one of the most honest and heart-wrenching performances of the evening.
Only Connect should be applauded for the work they do and while this play might not be a great work of literature the production itself is powerful and cleverly presented with a cast that obviously believe in what they are doing and do it with real heart.