by Romy Foster
A young black boy has just been stabbed in the hallway downstairs. The neighbours are sad but ultimately, not surprised. This one-woman show follows the lives of these working-class people in this typical London block.
We meet an elderly Brazilian florist, a couple who are dealers making their own stock, a few gang members they are betraying by doing this, a father trying to make things better for his family, his daughter who is studying law and a white man who is tutoring her whilst under scrutiny from his parents. They all have unlikely stories that knit together in the most unexpected of ways.
A memorial for the young boy fills centre stage with candles, flowers and his photograph. Dotted left and right are items of clothing and props belonging to the other neighbours including a money box, a duffel bag and a crack pot. Camila Segal portrays the elderly florist first. She tells of how she came over 20 years ago and has lived in this flat ever since. She has been saving up her money in a little box to afford her care home fees now she is starting to lose her mobility. Flitting between English and Portuguese, Segal paints pictures using just her voice and little hip rotations whilst dancing to her favourite song. Segal’s jumps between different characters of all different ages and races is compelling and even more convincing. It is clear she has such great commitment to her roles and the research needed to create them. At times, Segal’s speech is a little rushed, which seems to be from nerves, but with the subject matter and audience interaction it is harder to notice.
At first it seems like we are watching these people’s lives individually, but towards the end they all find a way to flow into each other and the story comes full circle. It ends with the florist again, at the end of her journey. The writing by Kieton Saunders-Browne is cleverly woven and great at building tension.
Plays like this can tend to be somewhat stereotypical if they’re not written by people who know what life on the block is like, but the stories explored are very much reminiscent of real life. If you’ve ever lived on a block, you’ll know these stories are all too familiar and heart-breaking. Unfortunately, these cycles continue with the under-funding of poorer areas, social exclusion of young people and low rates of pay for the working class. All-in-all, this is a promising new play that should have a bright future.
Block’d Off runs through 29 August.
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