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It Is So Ordered review at Pleasance Theatre, London – ‘urgent and absorbing’

Simon Mokhele and Faaiz Mbelizi in It Is So Ordered at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Tim Hall Simon Mokhele and Faaiz Mbelizi in It Is So Ordered at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Tim Hall
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In 1964, riots erupted across America in response to the killing of a black teenager – James Powell – by police. That tragedy forms a starting point for It Is So Ordered, a compact, unapologetically angry two-hander from playwright Conor Carroll.

The show’s thin but effective story centres on Simon Mokhele’s Johnny, wrongly accused of murder and swept up in a spate of unjust arrests. Mokhele imbues his character with charisma and compassion, making his rapid deterioration as he serves a life sentence all the more affecting.

Roaming the space, he searches constantly for eye contact, desperate to have his story heard. By contrast, Faaiz Mbelizi’s Bobby is furtive and withdrawn, but no less believable for that. Little more than a child when he is pressured into testifying, his lifelong guilt becomes its own sort of prison.

Director Lucy Curtis sets a breathless pace, giving the show a powerful sense of momentum, even if it means that some of the overlapping, sparsely-written lines are lost in the rush. Her two performers are kept in perpetual motion, trudging like prisoners on a chain gang, pacing in frantic circles, or staggering under blows from unseen assailants.

While there is no set, Lucy Weller’s design sees the actors sketching chalk lines throughout the space, suggesting ranks of protestors, the bars of a cell, or a body lying in the street. Lex Kosanke’s score mixes oppressive ambient rumbles with passages of jazz, evoking both the volatile tension and the extraordinary energy of the era.

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Urgent, absorbing performances energise this exploration of systemic injustice