Warde Street

Rating ****
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Warde Street – Tristan Bates Theatre – 20th August 2013

It’s always unnerving when a sign outside a theatre entrance warns you that the guns fired in the performance are filled with blanks. Later, when said gun was pointing directly at me, I was glad of this prior knowledge!

Writer and Producer Damien Tracey has chosen to tell his story in reverse order, so we begin with a scene leading up to a trial of a man accused of murder in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings.

Nobody but the defendant knows what happened on the night that left a man and woman dead. The newspapers have twisted his words until nobody knows what to believe. It’s a time where culture, race and politics clash.

The story gradually unfolds but it’s slightly confusing as the 7/7 attacks, although still too recent for the victims’ families, took place almost two years ago. The beginning is perhaps slower than necessary as there is a lot of information to take in, but it does pick up, even managing to be quite funny in places.

Acting isn’t bad, but the chemistry between Sam (Avita Jay) and David (Cameron Harris) is not particularly believable. Their personal story however is all but irrelevant and merely adds to the background of the real story.

Once Sam’s brother-in-law Ash (Omar Ibrahim) arrives, things get more interesting as his own story tumbles out and we begin to see how Sam and David are involved.

Ibrahim is a strong actor, truly showing his emotions through his acting and the scene between Ash and David is awkward and intense. Ash begins to show his despair as he realises that whatever happened, he’s already lost the battle. He’s a Muslim accused of the murder of a white man who lost his wife in the 7/7 attacks – the media have already passed sentence. The Act ends dramatically, causing many of the audience to flinch.

But it is Act Two that really brings this play to life and leaves the audience stunned and horrified at what they have just witnessed. It’s worse when you know the outcome of the story and throughout the final scene, many eyes were covered in anticipation.

Shane Noone as Eddie is a fantastic actor, managing to play a broken-hearted, angry, drunk and depressed Irishman with a gun (but no real agenda) in a way that makes the audience feel sorry for him.

Yet Ibrahim is equally fantastic and Ruby Visaria (Yasmeenah) brings the tears to our eyes, so we can’t begin to take sides. All we can do is await the outcome with baited breath. What did happen on Warde Street that night?

Despite its slow beginning, Tracey has produced a well-observed piece of theatre, brought to life by a predominantly strong cast and spine-tingling music. When an audience is left speechless at the end of a performance because their emotions have been left in tatters, you know you’ve done something right.