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Shakespeare in Shoreditch: Grey Man review – ‘a gorgeous, haunting monologue’

Jasmine Blackborow in Grey Man at BL-NK, London. Jasmine Blackborow in Grey Man at BL-NK, London.
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A ghostly apparition admonishes Richard III: “Think upon Grey, and let thy soul despair!” but there’s no such direct link between Lulu Raczka’s monologue Grey Man and the Shakespearean canon. In fact Rift’s second Shakespeare in Shoreditch festival features not a single straight production of one of the Complete Works, but at its centre are four new short plays inspired by Shakespeare and his connection to Shoreditch.

Grey Man is paired with The H Word, a neatly-written short play on gentrification by David Watson, where the trappings of a working-class pub haunt a woman opening a hipster café, aided by a ghostly Alan Prospero. Barrel Organ’s Raczka focuses on the ghost story as a form in Grey Man with Jasmine Blackborow’s Maya recounting the urban horror stories she used to hear her sister tell her friends. She loves the moment of the unmistakeable reveal – when all fears are confirmed, when you know the killer is in the house, or the kindly stranger had the most horrific plans.

These tales punctuate the story Maya’s sister herself, who withdraws from her sister, her friends and the world, possibly after a bad experience with an older boyfriend, possibly due to depression, and possibly to hide from the Grey Man of her worst stories – and the woman who made him. Grey Man itself doesn’t have the unmistakeable moment of reveal Maya discusses – it sits firmly and uncomfortably in the gut. A gorgeous, haunting monologue – the full-length version should be commissioned at once.

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Haunting monologue from a compelling emerging writer at the heart of a Shakespeare festival all about new writing