Although Frank Bramwell shies away from describing his new play as a political piece, it is actually just that.
Kicking Off is a string of monologues based around a number of characters and their involvement in the riots either as direct participants or as mere observers. In this 90-minute piece we see stories unfolding about surveillance, politics, journalism, youth disaffection and the failure of left- wing activists to provide a convincing, robust alternative to the inequities inherent in a capitalist economy.
But political theatre is a difficult genre to master unless like David Hare and David Edgar you have full conviction in your political perspective. And this is somewhat lacking in Kicking Off .
For instance, despite the ambitiously laid out canvas, the play is rather long and lacks atmosphere and dramatic tension. There is no music, sound or background scenery. It is also structurally weak because its juxtaposition of 2011 with a dystopian 2025 where even Harborne and Sutton Coldfield are alight by anarchy, agitation and anger is almost redundant. And you dont quite sense a climax, resolution or epiphany.
This failure might be to do with the way Bramwell has put this play together by focusing on minimalism and his allowing the actors to come up with their own monologues and working almost completely in isolation to one another. And although the actors are clearly talented and full of enthusiasm, you do get a sense of disconnectedness, as if the piece could do with a final edit to sharpen the message(s) and heighten the audiences appreciation and enjoyment.
Nevertheless, there are one or two notable performances. Andy Alsop and Neil May are very convincing as political orators; Catriona Mcdonalds portrayal of an old lady is moving and Chloe Tempest-Jones dippy, Liverpudlian blonde research assistant will stick in my mind for some time.