Pack at Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre again made an incredible impression with its new production of Louise Monaghan’s play Pack, winner of the Papatango writing competition. The play revolves around the relationship between four modern women forged by the game of bridge.
On one side of the bridge table we found Deb (Angela Lonsdale) and Stephie (Sarah Smart) – two white working-class girls from Leeds – while on the other side of the table, and of Leeds local community, there is the Asian GP Nasreen (Amita Dhiri). The three women learn the game of bridge under the guidance of their teacher Dianna (Denise Black) and simultaneously perceive the nuances of their respective roles within their community: mother, wife, doctor or teacher. Lesson after lesson, they talk about the men they married and what their own heritage means.
The game of bridge is only apparently the primary focus of the play. It is an excuse to build up a certain atmosphere, as there is a greater issue at stake, which unites and simultaneously divides the women of the play: racism. Hostile racism is at the heart of this play and often goes unnamed. Characters report the episodes of violent racism and the audience can only witness the emotional chaos that is produced by these events.
However, the protagonists themselves are not exempt from racist feelings. It is clearly evident with Deb’s immediate dislike for Nasreen, based on her ethnicity and class. Similarly, Stephie’s sweetness later shows a nasty bond with the BNP.
Monaghan’s writing needs to be praised for addressing a topic, which has almost reached saturation, presenting it in a really effective and unconventional manner. She does not challenge stereotypes or attempt to shock the audience with brutal episodes of racism. She simply shows that individuals always have the choice to separate themselves from the racism ingrained into society.
At first her protagonists seem powerless, as a consequence of being part of a racist social context. In the end, characters attempt to reduce the devastating consequences of racism exercising their power of choice.
Pack surely deserved to win the Papatango competition with a fantastic production team and awesome cast.
Playwright Louise Monaghan also won Bruntwood Price Judges’ Award 2011 for Shadow Play and was recently shortlisted for Theatre Centre’s Adrienne Benham Award 2012.
Pack is at the Finborough Theatre until 22nd December 2012. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.