Circles (Birmingham Rep)

Rachel De-lahay brings another hard-hitting piece to the Birmingham stage

Janice McKenzie (Phyllis) and Sarah Manners (Angela)
Janice McKenzie (Phyllis) and Sarah Manners (Angela)
© Graeme Braidwood

Although partly set on the number 11 bus that circles Birmingham, the theme explored in this one act play is universal. This is an exploration of cycles of violence in two stories that interlink.

Demi and Malachi are on the bus, night after night, bantering with each other as teenagers do, but there is something else, something under the surface that keeps you guessing until the end. Meanwhile, in a house somewhere in Birmingham, Angela goes to her Mum, Phyllis, for shelter when she walks out of a violent relationship – but will it be permanent?

Tension is built during the play and there are some intense moments as we delve deeper into the stories. In a small space and a stark stage, the characters are the focus. Each actor is totally immersed in their character. The teenagers played by Toyin Kinch and Danusia Samal are beautifully written and performed with the swagger and teenage slang that you would expect on the top deck of a bus.

Angela (Sarah Manners) and Phyllis (Janice McKenzie) are products of their past, both vulnerable but strong in their own way. The history between the mother and daughter and the way it has affected their relationship is clearly visible in the performance.

On a superficial level this is a telling of two stories, but delve a little deeper as writer Rachel De-lahay intended and there are lessons to be learned about making the right decision and not continuing the circle. This is a thought provoking and striking play that is current and relevant, but its subject is timeless.