Singalong politics: Albion @bushtheatre

You would not expect karaoke and far right British politics to go so well together, but in Albion, currently playing at the Bush Theatre, they seem inexplicably linked.

The cast break out into songs throughout the piece, but instead of singing for joy what emerges instead are thoughts of isolation and fear.

Chris Thompson's new play looks at the rise of the new far right in modern Britain at the home of an East End boozer.

The cleverness in the piece is not the interwoven songs as if you're watching a night of karaoke down at the pub, but how the politics and motivations are presented within their context and without judgement. You may leave the theatre feeling slightly challenged by some crafty arguments and giddy from some terrific singing. 
The story centres around Jayson (played memorably Tony Clay) who lives for karaoke night. When everything else is crumbling around him, it is the singing that keeps him going. In the closing minutes of the piece this becomes heartbreakingly apparent that this is all he has to live for as events, circumstances and personal choices conspire against him.

But the story does not just focus on Jayson, and with a series of interwoven stories emerges. His older brother is trying to keep the English Protection Army from looking like a bunch of football hooligans, while his deputy Kyle (Delroy Atkinson) thinks a bit of action is exactly what is needed. Meanwhile ex social worker Christine (played convincingly by Natalie Casey), who loses her job for failing to report a Rochdale-style sex trafficking gang is sure that the key to success is in the language that you use.

Politics, Trojan horses, political correctness and riots are all thrown into the mix, along with an awful lot of karaoke to comment on the action. At times you could be forgiven the piece wants to be a jukebox musical but then something happens to remind you it's a lot more. Perhaps the ambition of the piece perhaps does not match the size or the scale of this production. But it is a strong and original piece that will be interesting to see what future lies for it. 

It runs at the Bush Theatre through to 25 October.

Worth a look just to see Natalie Casey belt out It's Raining Men, and plug her English cookbook for English people (which sounds like a ghastly concept), and Delroy Atkinson sing Delilah...

***




Photo credit: Production photos.



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