Tag Archives: Ammar Duffus

“Dolphins and Sharks” at the Finborough Theatre

The European premiere of James Anthony Tyler’s play presents a slice of working life in contemporary America, based in a printing and stationery shop in Harlem. Graduating from the Finborough’s 2016 Vibrant Festival, the care and attention invested result in a successful pay-off for director Lydia Parker.

When Xiomara takes her chance for promotion to management, the lives of her staff, both old friends and new starters, suffer – to the company’s benefit. This isn’t much of a dramatic revelation. The plot holds no surprises and the play little subtlety. Thankfully some strong performances are on hand and Tyler’s observational comedy is well served.

Tyler’s characterisation is efficient. Rachel Handshaw makes the struggling new leader complex and engaging, Ammar Duffus is appealing as a recent graduate desperate for cash, and Hermeilio Miquel Aquino does well as the store’s cleaner. The evening relies on Shyko Ammos and her role of recalcitrant veteran employee – and she is super. A natural comic, Ammos makes many lines shine with a character that’s larger than life yet believable. And, when her character’s troubles come into focus, Ammos delivers a controlled yet emotional performance.

The issue of race pervades the play, interwoven with the world of employment. Startlingly, to say the least, Tyler parallels the idea of a wage slave with chain gangs. Arguments around prejudice lead to funny, provocative dialogue. The conclusion is a crusading note, presented by a magisterial Miquel Brown who plays a regular customer and long-standing local resident. There’s a call to arms, with a no-nonsense tone and direct address to the audience that feels – refreshingly – old-fashioned. Tyler’s text has an appealing sense of sincerity appropriate to his serious concerns that Parker appreciates and skilfully conveys.

Until 30 September 2017

www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Photo by  Alexander Yip

“If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You” at the Old Red Lion Theatre

London’s fringe theatres have a commendable number of plays that appeal to a gay audience. But, let’s be honest, too many have a historical focus, while gratuitous nudity often compensates for a lack of imagination. At the risk of offending playwright John O’Donovan who may not welcome any such comparison – this piece is well written by any standard – the unusual gay romance his accomplished debut work explores is a sophisticated affair with a strong, contemporary feel.

The action takes place on a roof, impressively rendered by designer Georgia de Grey, onto which two young men make a bungled escape after a drug-fuelled burglary. These aren’t your stock gay characters. Free of angst about sexuality, the story is about all the other things in their lives. O’Donovan skilfully reveals the extent of their troubles as working-class lads living in a small town in County Clare, while showing how profound their affection for one another really is.

Mikey is a fighter, maybe just a common thug, struggling to show emotion behind bravado. Alan Mahon brings out the roles charisma, delivers the jokes well and shows the writing’s subtlety. The object of Mikey’s affection is Casey, not quite the victim he first appears (there’s a lovely twist here), and a role that Ammar Duffus develops beautifully. Both actors make the offstage families that O’Donovan describes vivid – a sure sign of strong writing – and the chemistry between them, as they struggle to establish a partly covert relationship, is terrific.

The couple’s musings on life are frank, funny and, considering how much cocaine they snort, wise. There’s a strong dose of realism, well balanced by director Thomas Martin, and tension too, as the police circle the roof, Casey makes plans to fly away from his problems and Mikey has to come down to earth and face his future. It’s the tight dialogue around the potential and problems of escaping provincial life that ring true. This cleverly modest play will speak to a wider audience than you might suspect.

Until 24 September 2016

www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/theatre

Photo by Claudia Marinaro