Written and Directed by Julian Bond
Jack's Hard Rub Theatre
Next To Nowhere, Bold Street (21st September 2007)
It was standing room only at Next To Nowhere, as Liverpool's new social centre played host to its first play, from local theatre company Jack's Hard Rub.
The space seems quite well suited to small scale, intimate productions. Though there are some visibility problems which need to be looked into, the acoustics were excellent, and the audience couldn't help but be drawn in by the cast's magnetic performance.
The scene was set in a dusty Iraqi cafe, during the initial stages of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and gradually the characters were introduced by Shakir the cafe owner who finds himself constantly sweeping the dust of the universe. There was Asaph (Nick Osbourne), an eight year old boy troubled by apocalyptic visions; the two cafe-bound intellectuals Iyad (David Collins) and Narzim (Mike Saunders), a posh British soldier (Zoran Blackie), and Mariyam (Angela Millett), a bereaved mother who has been turned 'mad' by her grief.
There is so much more to this play than can be expressed in one review; it seems suited to an essay. However, I think many of these levels may be apparent only to the writer. Bond has deliberately kept many of the motifs ambiguous - especially the significance of the egg-dropping - but some people afterwards interpreted this as a lack of depth. That's a great shame for a play which screams 'microcosm', and wants to be an allegory for vast swathes of human life.
Despite this reservation, a lot of the writing is very skillfully done. The script is by turns poetically beautiful and grittily brutal, despairing and humorous, brimming with hate and overflowing with love. The audience is constantly surprised, which is a great thing for a play that doesn't move in space to achieve.
All the cast displayed enough talent to fill Next To Nowhere ten times over! Saunders was excellent in his role as a heartbroken and on the edge Palestinian, Osbourne was a completely believable young boy, Blackie convinced in both the Jekyll and the Hyde parts of his character, and the spectral Millett sent shivers down spines and tears into eyes with her portrayal. In fact, 'portrayal' isn't anything like the right word; it was impossible to say where the actress ended and the character began.
Everything considered, the venue could hardly have had a better theatrical curtain-raiser, and hopefully it was a taste of things to come.