Theatre of the community, (more or less) by the community, for the community.
It may be a lot to expect people to turn out for a half-hour play, but Eastern Angles, in the third year of its 5-year Peterborough project, is looking to very local audiences. It’s likely to be more a matter of calling in than going out, and crossing the road to see Crossed Keys could be literal for some. Ticket prices, at £3, or two for a fiver, are hardly pocket-stretching.
Show timings and the play's brevity mean a sociable add-on is a strong possibility. Like previous Angles work here, Greg Lyons’ one-acter uses an iconic part of Peterborough’s fabric, a part of its coat-of-arms, also laid-out in paving on the civic-sounding Alderman’s Drive.
It’s here two workers, Michael from Northern Ireland and Hussein, are seen early on planning the paving. Michael, whose knowledge of saints and the religious symbolism of keys, seems almost supernatural, is surprised at seeing Shahruk with her face covered according to Muslim convention.
An opening scene has made clear she and Hussein are partners and that she rejects the niqab. Subsequent scenes show how the tension the veil represents has arisen, while there’s an implication Michael might turn out an angel unawares in the final resolution.
Told economically in Kate Budgen’s production, with room-lighting and a simple set of screens backing the performance area, the piece is impressive for suggesting the city’s cultural variety without making it an issue. People from different backgrounds co-exist naturally; the threat that disrupts Shahruik and Hussein’s lives comes from within their own cultural tradition.
Mariam Haque and John Bosco show how fears can invade a relationship, while Aidan Dooley moves from the confidence of the more experienced worker through shyness when Shahruk appears, to a downbeat ending. His is the harder job for having to move from assertive speeches on the keys theme early on towards the sidelines, with no strong connection to the story of the other two. He acquits the task well.
Clearly told, as story and performance, it’s a piece that should find resonances as it travels round the city’s venues, schools – and a prison.
Peterborough Evening Telegraph
CULTURE CLASH FOR KEY-CROSSED LOVERS
With Italians working alongside Muslims, English and Eastern Europeans, there has always been scope to sample or mingle with differing tastes and beliefs.The Eastern Angles Theatre Company is drawing on this make-up in its Platform Peterborough plays with Crossed Keys being the latest (you mayhave already seen Lincoln Road or Our Nobby). It boils down to a love story. Hussein (John Bosco)and Shahruk’s (MariamHaque) commitment to each other can’t be publicly aired as their families are from differing castes.Hussein works with Michael (Aidan Dooley), a weathered Irishman living in Peterborough. They bond together during a building project which features the crossed keys design - the keys represent opportunities.Michael urges Hussein to follow his heart and their lives part. But there’s a twist in the tale.Through which tragic circumstances will Michael and Hussein meet again?Writer Greg Lyons and director Kate Budgen have created a thought-provoking piece which will strike a chord with many. Though a little short on laughs it’s well acted and very relevant to the city today. Crossed Keys runs untilOctober 22. It’s on at TheGreenhouse, PECT, at 1pm today and Peterborough CityCollege at 5pm tomorrow.For further dates, visit www.easternangles.co.uk.
The Public Reviews
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. 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, is superbly crafted.
The setting (Louie Whitemore) is of necessity very basic: three sections of the kind of fencing they put up round road works and it looks really effective under the rood screen of St John’s church. There are some telling images – Shahruk’s 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 those worn and faded bricks.