THE INITIATE reviewed by Jordan Lillie Sanderson & Maria Hildebrand
Written by Alexandra Wood Directed by George Perrin
The Initiate runs till the 18th of July 2015 »Book Tickets
Arriving at the Southbank Centre to see THE INITIATE as part of the Festival of Love the whole area was absolutely overrun with people clambering around to get their hands on some of the many food stands (where we partook in a delicious burrito) and to see all the shows that were going on. Maria and I passed at least 4 studios at the Southbank Centre as we were trying to find our show and everyone kept saying, "around the corner to the Round About." Very clever name we thought, now we were hoping it would be in the round especially because we ourselves are learning the different stagecraft techniques in different theater layouts. Sure enough, after going around the corner enough times we found it. At first glance it looked like a circus tent set up especially for a special event, not like any of the other spaces which were all in the Center. We walked up the steps and handed our tickets to the usher at the door. As he tore them he made a joke at how "expensive" our tickets were after seeing the £0.00 price on them. We were lucky enough to have gotten these tickets absolutely free after the Festival gave them to Drama Studio for any of their students to write a review for the school's blog, so glad we were the ones that got to do it. When we walked in we were quick to realize that this was no circus tent. It did honor its name by being in the round, beautifully lit and surrounded by lovely cushioned seats. The stage was set with 5 voms including one where the actors exited and entered the other being access to the seats, where during the show the actors sat if they were not speaking.
This 1 hour three-hander takes place in the round, the atmosphere is tight and insular.
Straight away we are pulled into a conversation between cab driver and boss. The jovial cab driver, originally from Somalia, is being fired because he finds it difficult to take the direct route to destinations but rather prefers giving his customers a scenic journey past Buckingham Palace or the London Eye. His naive reaction towards customers; "Don't worry you'll enjoy the ride." makes especially female customers feel very uncomfortable. We understand this is a man who operates in an unconventional way.
The first scene was perhaps over-played which could be accounted to nerves but as the show goes on, the actors relax and so do we as a result.
Now jobless, our protagonist returns home to his family where his wife informs him that their son Kbswa didn't go to school that day. The son, beautifully acted by Abdul Salis, admits grudgingly that his classmates compared him to a Somalian pirate who recently kidnapped a British couple from their holiday boat. When his son asks his father go and talk to the pirates because he is also Somalian, our protagonist is faced with his hero's journey. He accepts his son's request and goes to the Somalian community center to ask for the ransom money, £5 million. The head of the community centre eventually tells him it can't be done and questions his motives. "Why not any of the other people who have been kidnapped and attacked by these people? Why the Clarks? Why now?"
The play's initial London safeness and tepidness rolls into an intense and gripping arrival in Somalia. In his original home country, his Somalian family questions his decision and reasoning for this endeavour. But the stand-out scene is between by protagonist Sidney Cole and the viciously cheeky pirate boss played by Abdul Salis, which draws us in to the heart of the argument of THE INITIATE: who are we in the world in relation to our roots and is it possible to change how we are perceived by strangers apart from our skin colour, heritage and nation's backstory?
When our protagonist is finally allowed to see the hostages, the Clarks are shocked at the announcement of their release; especially when the one helping them is not the British Government but 'another Somalian'. Mrs Clark, played by Sian Reese-Williams, gives an emotionally rich and moving performance of disbelief and fear saying she'd rather die than be separated from her husband again, fearful that our cab-driver-turned-Saviour is just another liar and part of the pirate gang. Our protagonist tries to convince them that he is there to help them but once again, we are starkly confronted by the argument of the play - The fact that he is Somalian in this context taints him and does not make him neutral.
Overall, THE INITIATE was a political thriller tackled with engaging characters and written with clever witty dialogues. Perhaps the blocking and movement could have been minimised as that would have made the moments of movement more powerful.