“Evocative, atmospheric…Vividly staged in all its distressing force” – The Stage
“An absolute scorcher…overwhelmingly compelling” ***** 5 STARS – LondonTheatre1
“Dreamy choral harmonies“ – TimeOut
“Compelling theatre…The young cast exhibited very fine performances” – RemoteGoat
“A truly visceral experience” **** 4 STARS – The British Theatre Guide
“A necessary and daring insight into history that should never be forgotten and should never be repeated.” – Afridiziak.com
“Really powerful” – BBC Radio 1
LONDON Theatre503, Battersea: February 24 – March 8 7.45pm. BUY TICKETS
LONDON Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham: 10-14 March 7.30pm. BUY TICKETS
HULL Fruitspace: 30-31 March 7.30pm. BUY TICKETS
BRIGHTON Malborough Theatre: 9 April 8pm. BUY TICKETS
BRISTOL Alma Tavern Theatre: 14-18 April 8pm, BUY TICKETS
PLYMOUTH Stoke Damerel Church: 19 and 20 April, 6.30pm and 7.30pm. BUY TICKETS
LIVERPOOL Lantern Theatre: 30 April 7.30pm. BUY TICKETS
BRIGHTON FRINGE Duke Box at St Andrews: 5 and 6, May 7.30pm BUY TICKETS
DORSET Bridport Arts Centre: 9 May, 7.30pm. BUY TICKETS
KENT, Blackfen School, Bexley: 2 June 10am. (Please email email@example.com for tickets.)
KENT, Hall Place: 4 & 5 June 10am. (Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.)
LONDON, RADA Festival 3 July, 7pm.
Please note: at all performances in April, the part of Elsie will be played by Cheryl Walker
Muscovado at Theatre503 Review
February 26, 2015 by Annemarie Hiscott at LondonTheatre1
***** 5 STARS
It’s cold outside but inside Theatre 503 it’s a furnace. Set in St Lucy, a Caribbean island at the height of the slave trade, Muscovado is a domestic drama fraught with tensions that spill, with the milk and sugar, beyond the proscenium arch and into the consciousness of the audience.
The script by Matilda Ibini is an absolute scorcher; cutting out a section of humanity she painfully examines the dark repercussions of abhorrent slavery in the homes both of slave and master. In one moment she invokes laughter from her audience, the next utter revulsion that discomforts the previous humour. Her script is neat and expertly conceived. Starting deceptively lightly, Muscavado gets ever sourer act by act until it’s terrible, awful conclusion which leaves one reeling. Like the pressing of the sugar cane rendered by Kitty, this play wrings the sap out of the audience and leaves them tossed on a dry, searing beach of horror. It’s brave to attempt to convey a theme so overtly epic as the slave trade but Ibini manages it with skill and flair.
And the brilliant script is expertly delivered by a finely tuned cast of just six who give this story the devotion and attention it deserves, believably pursuing the story throughout. Clemmie Reynolds as Kitty is immensely watchable as the bored girlish wife of a brutish captain, using cruelty for entertainment and becoming maddened by her own self inflicted isolation. She shows the irony of being a female mistress who is in some ways as much of a commodity, as much of a victim, as the people she ‘owns’ and plays dominion over. Asa played by Alexander Kiffin is heart wrenchingly agonising to watch as he is preyed over time and time again. His love, Elsie, a proud woman who flees her home is beautifully portrayed by Damilola K Fashola who brings heaps of humour and tragedy to the performance, especially in the sexual abuse that is a strong theme throughout the play. Willa, the girl slave who grows old and experienced far far too quickly is played gorgeously by Sophia Mackay who has an uncanny knack of showing the violence done to her in moments of truly flinching theatre. Adam Morris as Parson Lucy is viperous and sly with despicable traits that both entertain and horrify. The music and choreography has been thought out and devised with care and to great effect; much of this is provided onstage by James Reynolds who also provides a counterpoint of the outsider to the household.
This is a production which has been lovingly and delicately crafted. The direction is superb and no detail has been missed. From the beautiful set to the commitment of the actors this play is clearly a labour of love and a massive achievement. It proves yet again that sometimes fringe theatre can and does stand head and shoulders above many West End shows that could only hope to achieve the same emotions in their audiences. This show is overwhelmingly compelling. Well done Burnt Out Theatre!
Review by Vanessa Bunn, EXTRA! EXTRA!
A set busy with hard and soft furnishings, props and plants perfectly reflects the stifling, oppressive atmosphere of this stunning play by Matilda Ibini. Even as the lights come up sweat drips from the characters, the buzzing and clicking of insects already punctuates infrequent silences. There is no gentle introduction and there is no respite as the play progresses. Muscovado is a pressure-cooker of familial, sexual and professional relations between the owners of a Barbadian plantation and the slaves that work for them.
Muscovado was commissioned by BurntOut Theatre following the discovery of archives relating to Artistic Director Clemmie Reynolds’ family, who lived in Barbados in the 1800s. The script is uncompromisingly direct but far from devoid of both humour and lyricism; this seems quite a feat given the often harrowing subject-matter. Music is a constant device, seamlessly woven through the drama. James Reynolds is standout in this regard, his exceptionally melodic voice further solemnising the most moving scenes and drumming and guitar playing livening the most playful.
A dynamic, unified six-strong ensemble play their own roles flawlessly while also managing to make the characters that are only spoken of as present as they are themselves. The Captain, owner of the plantation, and everyone’s tormenter, is rendered as cruel and slovenly as any actor playing him on stage could portray. An unseen house-servant, Genevieve, is also given life through clever dialogue and decisive acting. The Captain’s long-suffering spouse Kitty (Clemmie Reynolds) is a manic character, whose compulsive nature thrives in her oppressive surroundings. Intimacy swells and ebbs between childless Kitty and her servant-girl Willa (Sophia MacKay). Tactile affection and occasional well-meaning advice are juxtaposed with remarkable cruelty. Kitty is so sure of her ignorant assertions that she heaps them on Willa like fuel on a fire; her emotional and physical blows are as sure as nightfall.
The island’s clerical representative, Parson Lucy (Adam Morris), is unsettlingly convincing as an abhorrent, self-righteous villain who uses his vocation as a front for malevolence and greed.
Willa (Sophia Mackay) is ostensibly prim and eager to please but in reality is of rebellious temperament, harbouring an ambition to become a buccaneer. Asa (Alexander Kiffin) is the most intimate and longest serving member of the house-staff. Initially he seems difficult to warm to but as the play progresses he softens into one of the most tender characters, bursting with good intentions and genuine feeling. The heartiest of these feelings are reserved for his beloved, Elsie (Damilola K Fashola), who contributes some of the best depictions of utter resignedness that I have ever seen on stage.
All the characters display constant discomfort, aching, stretching, sweating, worrying and arguing. Kitty, supposedly living the good life is in reality, the most stifled of all the characters, mentally repressed to the verge of madness. The play is a hotbed of misogyny, racism and bigotry but any attempt to look away for reprieve is scuppered by the next arresting scene. Costuming by Juliet Leigh is measured and effective. Willa is a particularly consuming subject where costumes are concerned. She is dressed up for a family portrait which must give the appearance of respectability, while all manner of lurid events are taking place behind the scenes.
The theme of absent mothers is a prevalent one, whether dead or estranged; they have all left their mark, particularly on the female characters. Parson Lucy’s scathing attitude towards Kitty’s perceived barrenness and perverse enthusiasm at Willa’s ‘becoming a woman’ add to the intrinsic value that the play places on child-bearing. In raging conflict with this, however, is the blasé attitude with which Kitty suggests that Asa facilitate a production line of ‘fresh’ slaves. Ibini’s script is brimming with these kinds of conflicts and comparisons, ensuring that nobody will imperviously walk away from this play.
This searing production of Muscovado is such a blazing success because of that rare, sought-after thing – absolute cohesion. There’s not one element of the production letting another down. Everything from the set to the script, from the lighting to the sound hangs in striking harmony, while a team of singularly passionate actors give their everything to tell a story which is aching for an audience.
This year we have been developing a brand new play with award-winning playwright Matilda Ibini.
‘Muscovado’ is set against the backdrop of a rich and atmospheric soundtrack written by BurntOut composer James Reynolds. Played and sung live by the cast and four choral singers, it is a combination of classical part song, soulful negro spirituals and an exotic soundscape of mosquitoes, drums and whips.
Each summer we tour an open-air Shakespeare production to parks, gardens and city squares in South of England:
“Outstanding” – A Younger Theatre
“Easily the most age-accessible Shakespeare play I’ve watched, with adults and children alike in hoots of laughter…A perfect experience for a summer day” – Everything Theatre ****
“An afternoon of pure entertainment” – ***** (5 Stars), The Surrey Advertiser
“achingly beautiful… it really moved the soul.” – The Guildford Magazine
“…the perfect combination of brawling comedy and mysterious magic…audience members old and young, Shakespeare-savvy or otherwise, were able to appreciate the beauty of the work and, equally importantly, just how funny Shakespeare can be.” – Everything Theatre
“The enthusiasm and knowledge of this young cast are infectious… BurntOut Theatre is going from strength to strength.” – Cotswold Life