Biyi Bandele's Brixon Stories was first seen at the Barbican Pit last year as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's This Other Eden project, in which contemporary artists were asked to provide their own dramatic responses to Shakespeare's history plays. It now makes a fitting revival at the Tricycle Theatre as part of the annual Black History Month.
Bandele, the Nigerian-born, Brixton-based writer, invents his own little bit
of urban history and legend to tell a story that has the play subtitled "The
Short and Happy Life of Ossie Jones".
The short and happy play that has
resulted sees Bandele drawing its characters from the unique energy of those now
trendy South London streets, to make the play what the author himself refers
to as "an instinctive celebration of Brixton". But it is also a celebration
of Bandele's own imagination, and the power of theatre, at its simplest and most
stripped back, to tell a story.
Employing just two endlessly versatile actors, Brixon Stories conjures a vividly
realised world, both tangible and imagined, in which a widowed lawyer, Ossie
Jones (Jude Akuwudike) and his daughter Nehushta (the irresistibly feisty
Diane Parish), are taken on an odyssey. As the action slips the shackles of
the naturalistic and flies into the realms of fantasy, the two actors also take
on the vast array of characters that they meet along the way.
The play - developed out of Bandele's novel The Street but cleverly
re-imagined for the theatre - emerges as an apparently random but actually
precise evening of oral storytelling. It is beautifully performed under
Roxana Silbert's direction, and movingly echoes Shakespeare in the
reconciliation scene between father and daughter that the play concludes