Crongton Knights (11/2/20)

Knowing nothing about Pilot Theatre Company’s work, I went into this play blind and not knowing what to expect. All I had seen were some vibrant press images of the cast and their “castle” (more on that later). The show looked like fun so I opened my mind to anything, and what I found was an amazingly crafted piece of theatre that deserves more attention than it has.

The original novel is written by Alex Wheatle and adapted for the stage by Emteaz Hussain. Now, I have never read, nor heard of the book before but after seeing this I will keep an eye out for it. The narrative follows a group of friends “The Magnificent Six” going on a mission to retrieve a phone from the other end of their town in the dangerous “Notre Dame Estate”. All these places and characters are fictional yet so real I feel like I see these people everyday in my own school (being the same age as these characters) so high praise to the writers for creating such a real and entertaining journey. With moments in the script for the cast’s infectious energy to thrive as well as some truly heartfelt moments of high drama, allowing the cast to show of exceptional range.

For me, the stand out performer of this piece was Olisa Odele, who played McKay. The character who, throughout the whole piece, just wants to keep people together and resolve conflict. Within his family and friendship group. Odele expresses this longing for peace wonderfully, the effort he puts into his performance is so evident and is so rewarding to see, it heightens moments that you thought couldn’t be heightened anymore. In Act One he has a song in which he expresses his passion for cooking with high energy dancing, however in act two he has an emotional monologue about dealing with grief. His range is incredible and has an amazing career ahead of him.

Backing Odele up is Aimee Powell, playing Venetia. A realistic female character who stays strong when she needs to and stands up in the face of danger. Throughout the piece she takes responsibility where necessary and her journey allows her to realise that the support if her friends is something to embrace. Powell portrays this incredibly well. Her character becomes real on stage. Even when she is singing (with a beautiful voice) the story believable thanks to her performance.

Zak Douglas as Bit does a brilliant job too, he has a past he is ashamed of and you can see all that emotion come to the surface when it is revealed.

Two actors that deserve a lot of credit are Corey Campbell and Simi Egbejumi-David who, not only play Nesta and Festus, intimidating characters, but also make up an ensemble of Mothers, Fathers, Taxi drivers and Gang Leaders. The characterisation of every ensemble character led me to believe there were more actors than there actually were. To go from playing the powerful Festus to a comedic old grandma at a bus stop is a massive leap that was take effortlessly, high praise indeed.

Rounding off the Magnificent Six are Kate Donnnachie as Bushkid (a character that is initially only used for comedic effect, however in a scene before a rave is truly given time to develop); Khai Shaw as Johnah, who gives a brilliant conflicted performance throughout; and last, but definitely not least Nigar Yeva as Saira, another incredible performance with believable depth.

These characters all acted against the backdrop of Crongton; a mass of stairs and railing, garage gates and graffiti. The ambiguity of the central caste allows it to become bus seats, a rave and numerous houses. Thanks to the design of Simon Kenny the show was able to flow with the pace of the writing. It was a joy to watch.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this production and it has taught me to see a wider variety of Theatre, and give lesser known shows a chance, because if they are anything like Crongton Knights it will be more than worth it.