From the moment Seroca Davis strides confidently into the sofa-strewn vacant unit within the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and glares out at the front row it’s clear this show will be something special.
Despite the clanging, banging and occasional shouts to be heard from outside during the play, the Royal Court’s six-month tenancy of this unit looks set to be a success. If anything the external noise adds to the atmosphere of debbie tucker green’s (she prefers lower case as it’s the text that counts) potent play.
Davis spends a mesmerising hour detailing a day in the life of one ordinary family who suddenly find themselves torn apart by knife crime – an all too common occurrence in London these days.
She has a wonderful ability to switch from accent to accent within sentences, to twist from one character to another with the greatest of ease, using only her body language to indicate who the audience is listening to moments before she speaks. She can convey her characters’ aggression or their innate softness with just a few short words, and when the tears roll down her cheeks, it’s hard not to cry too.
As Mum, her hands placed firmly in front of her, she sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes at the behaviour of her children, while her swagger is exemplary as Brother, full of bravado, who by necessity we see far too little of. She even manages a strong portrayal of Dad, who barely says a word and struggles to express himself even more once he is suffering. But Davis is best as Sister, whose narrative holds the play together, as she comes to realise how her family life has been changed in such a short space of time. Her lines may not be the funniest, but her everyday problems are all too relatable, while the awful situation she is pitched into is starkly related.
green’s play (first seen at the Royal Court’s main space in 2008), taut and rich, full of beautiful language and necessary moments of comedy, is a gift to a performer. green’s writing is gorgeously developed. It is dark and dramatic but also witty and emotionally raw. She can go from throwaway humour – “flick on the Phillip and the new gurl… mi still missin’ Fern” to foreboding – “I ketch a sliver of the shadow of the shadow of the day.” Performer and text fit together perfectly. This is startling, stunning stuff.