Eastern Angles in Peterborough
Plenty of drama on the streets of Peterborough – as I enjoy a pre-show drink at the Draper's Arms, a group of young Asian men is intimidated by a lone man in a football shirt. The barman moves him on, politely but firmly.
Greg Lyons' play – part of Platform Peterborough - 2011 starts on the city's streets, and it's noticeable that almost all the scenes are set in the open air.
A young couple are searching for the symbol of the crossed keys [part of the city's arms] set in concrete bricks near a very ordinary road junction. Hussein supervised the original work, but the years have faded the cheap coloured bricks. The drama, in just over thirty minutes, takes a serious look at difference, at culture, at the sacred, and at the healing effect of time. The two lovers struggle to keep their relationship alive in the face of the hostility of Shahruk's family. Michael, a straight-talking Irishman, also an incomer to the city, inadvertently brings about resolution of a kind, at no little cost to himself.
All three characters are explored and developed in Kate Budgen's clear, straightforward production. We get to know them surprisingly well in just half an hour. Shahruk, movingly played by Mariam Haque, is clearly afraid of what her uncle might do if she marries the wrong man. Forced to “disappear” to university, forever changing her phone to avoid detection, she finds the secrecy and the subterfuge an intolerable burden. Even when she qualifies as an architect, and enjoys a Cornish honeymoon, she is still unsure about a relationship that cuts her off from her family. John Bosco's Hussein, loving, caring, but constantly tested, is a really likeable character, whether crossing swords with Michael, or flirting with Shahruk. And Aidan Dooley is magnificent as the spiritually knowledgeable paving layer [“poking a stick in an ant's nest of cultural confusion” one of his many memorable turns of phrase] – his speech on the Sacred, delivered while opening his Thermos flask, was superbly crafted.
The setting is of necessity very basic: three sections of the kind of fencing they put up round road works. Looks really effective under the rood screen of St John's church. There are some telling images – her niqab teamed with a “Gorgeous” designer bag.
I was fortunate to see the piece twice. In the generous space of St John's – where the kneeler in front of me has the same red and yellow symbol – I found the drama less intimate, but more meaningful, than in the back room of the Brewery Tap, just ten minutes away from the those worn and faded bricks …