Monday, 9 January 2012

Tottenham: The Riots, a play by Gillian Slovo, at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre

I saw The Riots in Tottenham last week (Wednesday, 4 January). This thoughtful play is the result of the Tricycle Theatre Company’s own investigation into last summer’s unrest in London and the rest of the UK.
  Writer Gillian Slovo* based The Riots on 56 hours of interviews with rioters, riot victims, police and politicians. For instance, well-known actor Cyril Nri plays both Superintendent Leroy Logan and Reverend Nims Obunge; and Michele Austin was superb as gushing Diane Abbott MP one minute and, after a rapid costume change, as flamboyant children’s advocate and charity leader, Camila Batmanghelidjh.
   The government refused to hold an inquiry into the August 6-10 unrest that claimed the lives of five people – Trevor Ellis, Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali, Abdul Musavir, and Richard Mannington Bowes.
  The Tricycle has transferred Slovo’s play from its Kilburn home to show to Tottenham audiences at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre until January 14. The riots kicked off in Tottenham following the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, a young father from the local area, during a police raid in Tottenham Hale on August 4.
  Senior politicians, such as Michael Gove MP and Iain Duncan Smith MP quickly condemned the rioters as criminals, arguing only criminality and nothing political motivated the violence and looting. Slovo interviewed both politicians. Actors representing their testimony in The Riots will allow Tottenham audiences this week to make up their own minds.
  Testimony also includes a letter written by Chelsea Ives from Holloway Prison. Ives, a former London Olympic Games ambassador, wrote to the Tricycle with her story and views. Ives is serving a two-year sentence for criminal damage and burglary. Her mother Adrienne contacted police after seeing CCTV footage on TV news of her daughter involved in a group attack on a police car in the north London suburb of Enfield.
  On stage, Ives (played by Clementine Marlowe-Hunt) expresses remorse for her actions but condemns a media witch-hunt for trashing her as the country’s most notorious and archetypal rioter.
 A passionate and informed Tottenham audience took part in an after-play discussion with Gillian Slovo and Stafford Scott, a ‘veteran’ Tottenham community advocate and interrogator of police tactics from the days of the Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham in 1985. Scott’s insights into how police approach black people and communities will be considered in some detail at
 * South African-born Slovo is the daughter of Joe Slovo, leader of the South African Communist Party, and of Ruth First, the anti-apartheid activist and journalist who was murdered by a parcel bomb in 1982.

The Riots plays in Tottenham until January 14. For tickets and info:

Paul Coleman, London, January 2011

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