Sunday, July 14

They Don’t Really Care About Us – Hope Street Theatre

An intelligent and authentic production with fire in its belly, which does well to tackle complex themes with passionate conviction. Provides an important lesson in the ongoing injustices and experiences of racial and sexist discrimination, leaving room for further development and exploration.   

TDRCAU is set in the 90s during the immediate aftermath of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. A landmark case in which a public inquiry into the handling of his brutal racially motivated murder eventually exposed institutional racism within the UK police and justice systems.

We follow the story of medical student Dinesh Sharma (portrayed by co-writer and co-director, Sab Muthusamy), a local lad of Indian descent who finds himself regularly subject to derogatory racial comments from the police during stop and searches, whilst under interrogation, and on remand following the murder of his friend, successful poet Vanessa (played by Nina Price).

4am Productions have a natural ability of creating visually striking theatre. The effective opening segment performed under the militant beats and rhythms of Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, a protest song against oppression, perfectly created a strong choreographed tableau of diverse, and defiant characters involved in this story, who are based on real people and life experiences of the cast.

The themes and experiences explored in TDRCAU, have been and continue to be prevalent. On a local level, with the 2005 murder of 18-year-old Anthony Walker in Huyton. Killed simply because of the colour of his skin, a fatal attack following years of racist abuse targeted towards his family.  And despite the development of hate crime reporting and the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, which made it unlawful to discriminate against protected characteristics, including race and gender, acts of racism and sexism are still, sadly, common place today.  

Under the co direction of Sab Muthusamy, Rachel Louise Clark, and George Fragakis, the writing and characterisations allows for a thoroughly entertaining piece of theatre.  Most of their creative choices serve the complexities of the narrative well. The use of contrasting colour palettes was effective, the monotones of the prison scenes contrasted well with the bright colours used when Dinesh is at home with his mother (a credible debut from Sudha Rajavelu). The use of the Pixies song ‘Where is my Mind’, an excellent choice which served the internal psychological and physical aspects of Dinesh’s character. 

With some excellent casting and performances from the talented ensemble, who portrayed a range of layered, believable characters, aided the delivery of the story, co written by Muthusamy and Clark. Notably, Muthusamy as Dinesh, its tenable that several of his scenes were performed verbatim, and his portrayal as a man exposed to a lifetime of being subjected to discrimination was truthful and poignant. Hannah Kidman, as rookie DI Hannah Brindle, experiences blatant sexism from DCI Josh Millar (Kru Lundy) the epiphany of misogyny which provided some uncomfortable moments portrayed well by both actors.

Watching the interactions between the Campbell family (Alan Kenny, Lisa Mogan, Abi Tyrer) was a delight, who beamed with pride at their talented daughter Vanessa, an ambitious and beautiful poet, like a “Greek goddess”. Nina Price brings a likeability to Vanessa, humbled and embarrassed by the fawning over her talents, exacerbates the sadness felt following her senseless murder.  The lovely chemistry and dynamic between Dinesh and Vanessa, suggests a potential interracial love affair between two likeminded souls, with Vanessa expressing through her poetry, the dismay towards the prejudiced attitudes of the society around her.

Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the fantastic potential of this production is greatly let down by its scene transitions.  The creativity and flair evident in other areas, could have been utilised to make the scene changes more integral to the flow of the story. The deafening silence which accompanied the stop and start of each scene, did nothing to help the pace and diminished the fire in the belly of the writing and its impact.

There were also some inconsistences with the use of sound, staging and lighting, especially during the interrogation and court scenes. Some further attention to detail is needed; the use of authentic 90s props including VHS tapes and CDs, is compromised by the use of sound, as it’s highly unlikely that you’d find a Nirvana song on a Pixies CD album.  

Despite some questionable creative choices, overall, 4am Productions are ones to watch with this, a production with plenty of potential and relevance.  

Reviewer: Gill Lewis

Reviewed: 1st June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.