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Basic review at Hackney Empire Studio London

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Basic is the lowest of a three-tier system of privileges in Her Majesty’s prisons. It is here that Charlie (Femi Oyeniran) finds himself after knifing a guy for giving him the wrong look on the streets of Dalston. Like Noel Clarke’s 2006 film Kidulthood, in which Oyeniran also starred, Basic tackles the realities of the, particularly black, disaffected youth in Britain’s urban centres and the choices, or lack thereof, available to them.

Writer Lynn Greenwood worked as a psychotherapist at HMP Wormwood Scrubs and so draws from experience when constructing the character of Charlie – all explosive anger, bravado, disillusionment and self-loathing. Oyeniran possesses a fierce stage presence and is 100% believable, bringing the same naturalism to his acting that must have marked him out for Clarke’s movie.

Christopher Streeks, as the older con Ash, seems out of place by comparison and jars in the initial stages. It is hard to discern whether it is the acting or the character that is so clunky in this situation. It is not until the drama unfolds that it becomes evident the pieces of the puzzle have been in place from the start.

The dialogue, design and sound is sharp and immediate and contributes to a powerful 75 minutes of theatre, which couldn’t have more contemporary relevance.

Production Information

Hackney Empire Studio, London, April 17-May 5

Lynn Greenwood
Haruka Kuroda
Stonecrabs, Hackney Empire
Femi Oyeniran, Christopher Streeks
Running time
1hr 15mins

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