Review: Lost in Business Translation in Chinglish, Park Theatre
That was March in London theatre land - and a bumper crop of thesp spots

Review: Contemporary tragedy in Custody, Ovalhouse

Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli) 7
Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli)

Custody is a play about the impact of a contemporary tragedy. Brian - brother, lover and son - is killed in police custody and as his family fight for justice they also fight to come to terms with his death in their own way.

The play's inventive opening has the four actors taking a policeman's seemingly innocent description of the events of Brian's death, breaking them down into repeated words and phrases so that they take on an ironic power and brutality of their own. 

Then we head back to the evening of the tragedy painting a picture of Brian and family life. It is jovial with friendly joshing, warmth and amusing motherly reprimands. This is interwoven with Brian's final hours, the cast of four taking it in turns to play him so that the sketches gradually reveal the full horrific picture.

The action then moves to the aftermath. Sister's (Kiké Brimah) energy and grief is channelled into the fight to bring the policemen responsible to justice. Brother (Urbain Hayo) becomes resentful and distant, rudderless and careless in his pursuits.  Lover and fiancée (Sacharissa Claxton) can't move on and feels not only the loss of Brian but also the loss of the family network as they close ranks. And Mother (Karlina Grace-Paseda) is haunted by the memory of her son, which challenges her faith and her mental stability in a way that reminded me a little of Hamlet/Ophelia.

The injustice and tragedy of Brian's death is played out in those close to him more than in the actual legal proceedings although verdict announcements  are nicely timed to generate maximum anticipation and tension.

While the play never manages to fully recapture the power and heft of the opening scenes it is nonetheless an interesting dissection of human grief in awfully tragic circumstances.  Cleverly and skilfully told in a mixture of styles I'm giving it four stars. It's 80 minutes long and it at Ovalhouse in Oval until April 8.