Review: Pigeons, Royal Court

“Shit that went wrong right wrong (again)”

Spin number three on the Royal Court’s weekly rep wheel focuses on a new British writer Suhayla El-Bushra. Much of her previous work has been teen-focused, including Hollyoaks, and so it is little surprise that her play Pigeons centres on two childhood friends as they make the difficult transition into manhood in a world that dreams of multiculturalism. Through the haze of casual drug use, furtive blow-jobs under the counter, bunking off schools and listening to some bangin’ choons, Ashley and Amir find their lives inexorably pulled apart on different paths yet fatefully destined to clash together again. 

El-Bushra has fractured her timeline so that her play starts at the end and then moves back and forth in time to show the boys in the various stages of their relationship. A product of the care home system, Ashley loves playing the Sarf London wideboy with Ryan Sampson affecting some wonderfully vivid street speak, but he finds a kind of contentment in Amir’s family home. And along with Nav Sidhu’s Amir, they both enjoy the teenage rites of passage – Angela Terence’s Leah delivering their sexual awakenings – and the journey into something darker as the spectre of racial prejudice rears its ugly head. 

The fragmented nature of the narrative lends interest to what otherwise would a relatively conventional story. El-Bushra has a keen ear for the dialogue of today’s youth, its braggadocio and grandstanding, and identifies the pervasiveness of long-held societal attitudes as a key driver in the vicious cycle of discord from which there appears to be little chance escape. At just 60 minutes, this does feel like something of a work-in-progress, Carrie Cracknell’s production hinting at the potential directions in which the play could usefully be expanded – especially in the further development of the relationship between the boys and the adults in their lives as perhaps a little too much time is spent on showing their raucous antics.

But an interesting showcase for the kind of voice one wouldn’t normally see downstairs at the Royal Court and yet another diverse turn from the weekly rep company as they reach the halfway point in their tenure.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 29th June

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