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Torn—a modern take’ on an age-old theme

PUBLISHED: 16:42 17 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:27 05 October 2010

TORN is an impressive first play by Femi Oguns and offers plenty of food for thought. It examines the classic theme of star-crossed lovers, but with a modern take’ which proves to be an eye-opener for many in the audience and seems to confirm the experience of others

TORN is an impressive first play by Femi Oguns and offers plenty of food for thought, writes Julia Gregory.

It examines the classic theme of star-crossed lovers, but with a modern 'take' which proves to be an eye-opener for many in the audience and seems to confirm the experience of others.

Sadly, this production at Dalston's Arcola Theatre has itself been marred by London street violence.

Cast member Brooke Kinsella has had to miss performances after her brother Ben, was stabbed to death last month.

Few audience members can be unaware of the case and the tragic outcome when anger is transformed into violence.

There's no such ending in Torn, but the lovers face their own torments.

David (Femi Oguns) and Natasha (Eternal's Kelle Bryan) meet and fall in love. The ardent and idealistic David asks what colour love is and it sadly seems that love is not colour-blind as this play explores inter-racial conflict between black British communities.

The prejudices of family and friends pull the young lovers apart as they are caught up in the crossfire because of their African and West Indian backgrounds.

What follows is an uncomfortable exploration of bigotry, with some unpalatable comments aired by Natasha's father Malcolm (Wil Johnson) and David's vituperative sister, played by Jocelyn Jee Esian.

It fell to Malcolm's workmate, the newly arrived immigrant Freddy (Richard Hollis) to point out a few homes truths. He said he is working hard to bring his family together, while his colleague is striving to pull his family apart.

Some of the slang went over my head, partly because of the unfamiliarity of the words and partly due to the machine gun speed the words were fired off by Wil Johnson.

But clearly not all the audience had the same problem, as they were enjoying the jokes I missed.

The playwright is a name to watch. He founded, Identity, the country's first black drama school, in 2003, and has the power to make us confront unpalatable home truths.

Other notable performances were from Antonia Okonma, selected as a suitable partner for David and Clare, Louise Cordwell, who has stepped in to play Kirsty, the London white girl who only fancies black men.

What was universal, however, was the realisation that whatever our background prejudice rears its ugly head throughout the community.

This play makes us think long and hard, a valuable lesson for everyone.

Torn, runs at the Arcola, Dalston, until August 2. Box office 020-7503 1646.

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