There’s a hierarchy on the estate. At the bottom of the food chain is Ally, a 14-year-old boy who’s the UK equivalent of a latch-key kid. He can’t go home before his dad gets in from the pub and he has to wait until a good hour after so dad’s safely passed out. A notch above is Elvis. He’s come good, got a place in a hostel, a job as a bin man a couple of nights a week, and now is on an apprenticeship, with a local plumber, Denny.
Denny is straight down the line, seems happy where he is but it’s Cooper, a friend of Denny’s late father’s, who reminds him of his fall from grace when he planned to leave the Peckham enclave for a life with a band in Manchester. He boasted about it to the whole estate but never left, and Cooper won’t let him forget it.
Such is the desolate world of Lin Coghlan’s new play at the Bush, Kingfisher Blue. But the point seems to be, as one character says, that "you deserve better than this". They all do as, contrary to first impressions, they are all good people in a relentless world.
This hard world is in distinct contrast to that of the past which even the young Elvis recalls, through the eyes of his dead grandmother, with longing. A time when mothers knitted and people sang in pubs without the aid of a karaoke machine.
Ally is desperate to escape his father and get to Majorca where his mother has fled. But how can he raise the cash? He comes up with a foolproof way that requires Elvis’ help, but things don’t turn out as intended.
Coghlan weaves an engrossing yarn, and the time passes quickly. All the performances are totally convincing especially Josef Altin who is by turns exasperating and touching as Ally. The relationship developed between him and Elvis (Toby Alexander) is extraordinary, totally unsentimental, and yet we see these two love each other as kindred spirits.
Unfortunately, the second half doesn’t build on the promise of the first and, after portraying a truthfully remorseless world, we're offered a clean, tidy and unconvincing ending.