Review: Chigger Foot Boys, Tara Arts

“We were chosen because we think like Englishmen”

At a moment in British history when the political discourse around the contribution of (at least part of) the immigrant population has never been more highly charged, Patricia Cumper’s Chigger Foot Boys could not be more timely. A largely unheralded part of the British Army in the First World War were the 15,600 men who formed the British West Indies Regiment, volunteers from British colonies who provided invaluable service and yet received despicable treatment.

Cumper is far too canny a writer to make her play – based on meticulous research and inspired by real events – that didactic though. The consequences of colonial attitudes and their prejudices are implicit, threaded through every heartbeat of her five fictional characters but never the sole focus, complicated as they are by the intersection of so many other things like cruel twists of fate and the full spectrum of human nature from its self-sabotaging worst to its soul-searching best, to create the rich fabric of their own narratives.  Continue reading “Review: Chigger Foot Boys, Tara Arts”

Review: Titus Andronicus, Arcola Theatre

“Look down into this den and see a fearful sight of blood and death”

The 80s appear to be fertile ground for reinterpretations of classics – recent weeks have seen Romeo and Juliet in Camden market and Sweeney Todd above a greasy spoon, utilising the societal upheaval of the time as a backdrop, and so too does Zoé Ford with this unique and exuberant take on Titus Andronicus. Using This Is England as a key reference point, this is a world of viscerally tribal skinheads and goths (standing in for the Goths) and one in which the enraged pursuit of bloody vengeance feels entirely appropriate.

This is a production that is broad, ballsy and extremely bloody. David Vaughan Night’s Titus is all bovver-booted swagger, Maya Thomas’ cogent Lavinia is distressingly tragic and Rosalind Blessed’s vibrant Tamora is a commendably strong presence as the two warring factions trade rape, murder, mutilations, even cannibalism, as the stakes and everyone’s pride remains too high to entertain anything but the most desperate fight to the end.  Continue reading “Review: Titus Andronicus, Arcola Theatre”