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Review: Another kitchen drama by Arnold Wesker - Roots at the Donmar

Rehearsed reading: Alexi Kaye Campbell's Death in Whitbridge

There is something quite special about a rehearsed reading. It's often a one off, you always get one or two gems in the cast and an intimacy to the performance so that you feel like you are sitting in on a rehearsal.

The play itself can sometimes seem immaterial but in this instance the opportunity to see work previously un-performed by Alexi Kaye Campbell was a particular draw.

It was presented as part of the Finborough's Vibrant festival of new writing  and its strength lies in the ealier scenes.

A middle-class family-set comedy with son Fred (Adam James) visiting his parents to introduce them to his girlfriend Fatima (Naomi Sheldon) who is a burka and full-veil wearing Muslim. Fred also has some news which will further put him on Daily Mail hate-list and, to add to the drama, a mass murderer is on the lose leaving victims body parts in the residents if Whitbridge's shrubbery.

Kaye Campbell has an ear for inadvertent snobbery and prejudice that stems from middle English politeness and social awkwardness and this is reflected in his writing. His characters see drama and insult where there is none while side-stepping more serious issues.

There are laughs a plenty in the first hour but then he takes a path with the narrative that seems to lead to one extreme after another. The play moves beyond comedy bordering on farce to something that becomes awkwardly dark. In isolation there are some wonderful moments but taken as part of the piece, do not quite sit tonally.

It will be interesting to see if and how this gets worked up into a fully produced piece.

 

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