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Theatre Review: Bullet Tongue

PUBLISHED: 15:34 21 November 2018

Bullet Tongue is the first production at The Big House's new location on Englefield Road. Picture: DYLAN NOLTE

Bullet Tongue is the first production at The Big House's new location on Englefield Road. Picture: DYLAN NOLTE

dylan nolte photography

Vulnerable young people are given a voice to tell their own gutwrenching story of the terrifying exploitation of children to sell drugs.

The story focuses on Bumper, a young girl caught up in county lines drug dealing. Picture: DYLAN NOLTE.The story focuses on Bumper, a young girl caught up in county lines drug dealing. Picture: DYLAN NOLTE .

We have all seen media reports about County Lines - the supply of class A drugs from cities to the countryside.

Young – often very young – vulnerable people are most at risk of being exploited by dealers. The Big House, an old factory in the process of being transformed into a theatre, gives them the opportunity, through theatre, to transform their lives.

No-one in the cast was auditioned, or trained in drama school, yet the resulting performance is polished and professional.

These kids have creative talent by the bucketful - although, bearing in mind that members of the audience might have difficulty following the dialogue, speed and clarity of speech sometimes needs attention.

The Big House offer young people the chance to make themselves heard, with regular productions. Picture: DYLAN NOLTE.The Big House offer young people the chance to make themselves heard, with regular productions. Picture: DYLAN NOLTE .

The often gut-wrenching plot is clearly based on the genuine – and often terrifying – experiences of the actors.

The writers (Andrew Day and Sonya Hale) have woven this material into a mesmerising story. It is not all doom and gloom: sometimes it is funny, at other times, touching. The director, Maggie Norris has developed a promenade production which conducts the audience seamlessly through the partially refurbished building. Each area is a stage set (designed by Zia Bergen–Holly) that minimally but powerfully evokes the different venues (there are seats available for those who need them).

The play is about changing society. And where better to begin than with young, marginalised people – they are the future and their needs, as well as their talents, must be recognised.

With love and care and more enlightened attitudes, we have the potential to make a better, safer world.

Shonagh Woodburn-Hall, who plays Bumper, holds it all together with a performance of astonishing strength and subtlety. She is supported by an ensemble company of extraordinary talent and authenticity. And the whole production is effectively backed up by the sound (Ed Clarke), video designer (Mic Pool), the imaginative lighting designer (Michael Harper) and costumes (Paulina Domaszewska). This exuberant, hard-hitting play, in contrast with most current mainstream theatre, which seems to be primarily concerned with money, has the potential to change society. It forces the audience to sit up and listen, to re-think some of their prejudices about marginalised young people, to give them a voice – and what a loud, clear voice it is.

5/5

Bullet Tongue runs at The Big House until Saturday December 8. For more details click here.

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