Perseverance Drive at the Bush Theatre
It not often that contemporary theatre is focused on religion. It’s even rarer that a play hosts an all-black cast. For these reasons alone, Perseverance Drive is an original and compelling production. However, Robin Soans’s script, coupled with some outstanding performances from the cast, makes this an emotive and passionate piece of work, much more than just an unusual piece of theatre.
The first act is set in Barbados where the Gillard family have come together to mark the death of their mother Grace. The rifts and tension within the family are instantly palpable. Father Eli is at odds with two of his sons – Zek, who has married a divorced woman and started his own ministry and Josh, who has disgraced the family by being gay. The resentment continues to simmer until it finally boils over in an explosive funeral scene. In the second half we jump to Leytonstone, and this time it’s Eli’s failing health that brings the family together. But their fiery conflicts, which seem to be fuelled mainly by their deep religion, are not cooled another emergency.
To begin with the acting was rather clunky and exaggerated. This soon changed with the appearance of Clint Dyer, whose natural acting style seemed to relax the other actors into an impressive performance. Leo Wringer as Eli gave an outstandingly emotive performance, particularly in the second half, which brought tears to the audiences’ eyes. Ray Shell brought comic relief as the exuberant Reverend Marvin Clarke and Frances Ashman excelled as mild-mannered Ruth.
There is a paradox when presenting religion convincingly on stage as the majority of directors tend to have largely liberal leanings. Director Madani Younis manages to convey the beliefs of this Pentecostal family with a degree of empathy, but the only character that seems truly moral and likeable is Josh, who has denounced religion. The power of the second act however, means we focus not on whether religion is good or bad, but on the tie of familial love and how this is constantly twisted, broken, and remoulded.
An emotive look into a family divided by differences and shared beliefs, Perseverance Drive is a moving and enjoyable piece of theatre.
Perseverance Drive is at the Bush Theatre until 16th August 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch an interview with the playwright and director here: