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Bashment review at Theatre Royal Stratford East

A play does not have to be good to be important. And Rikki Beadle-Blair’s play, while over-plotted, over-written and dense, is one of the most important new plays in London. It dares to articulate some challenging thoughts and ideas about the insidious homophobia of the culture of dance-hall reggae music.

By humanising both the cause and effect of that hatred – and daring to look also at the music’s evident appeal to a disenfranchised black population – it throws down a serious gauntlet towards understanding where it comes from, instead of simply condemning it outright, which has led to some American acts being banned from performing in Britain.

That creates a proper sense of debate that provokes an audience to consider its own preconceptions on either side. Some of the audience may audibly flinch when they see two men kissing or being affectionate on stage but the play itself does not flinch from confronting the beliefs – cultural as well as historic – that underline such reactions.

Beadle-Blair cleverly wraps this within a deeply human story, telling of how the boyfriend of a white rapper is the victim of a homophobic attack by four rival stars that leaves him permanently brain-damaged. Because the playwright makes you care deeply his characters, blind prejudice is quickly shown the door.

But the attackers are also humanised, and their path towards a kind of redemption beautifully charted. It’s a play rich in understanding and insight. And the author’s own production is acted with a rough energy and commitment that makes it entirely believable.

Production Information

Theatre Royal, Stratford East, May 20-June 18

Author
Rikki Beadle-Blair, who also directs
Producer
Theatre Royal, Stratford East
Cast includes
Joel Dommett, Anthony Newell, Jason Steed, Joe Marshall
Running time
2hrs 40mins

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