Albion at the Bush
Albion’s timing could not be more apt: while the union of the United Kingdom is in disarray, a working underclass of people are disillusioned with British politics, feeling increasingly marginalised and disenfranchised with the current Government’s policies. As a result, far-right extremist views are on the rise, vocalised by the BNP and EDL. Albion is set in a typical East End London pub, revolving around seven main characters, supporters and members of the EPA – the English Protection Army. Focusing on themes of racism, immigration, housing and unemployment, the play sets out to demonstrate how a minor personal event can be a catalyst for a something much more aggressive and terrifying. Importantly, all of the characters are relatable; they’re your best friend, sister, brother, neighbour and work colleague.
The story unfolds through concurrent plots interwoven with karaoke numbers, each cast member singing a number with lyrics pertaining to the current storyline. The pub is run by landlord Paul, heading the EPA, a fictional far right group campaigning against the development of a local mosque. His brother Jayson, played endearingly by Tony Clay, is naively groomed to be subservient to the same set of beliefs his brother popularises, despite being gay with an Asian boyfriend. Their sister poppy is killed while overseas serving for the British Army, which only intensifies their nationalistic beliefs and hatred for Muslims. Ex-social worker Christine is fired for being involved in a mishandled case of a 14-year-old girl who was abused by Asian men. Alienated and scapegoated, she runs for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, working hand in hand with the EPA. Natalie Casey (of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps) plays Christine with expert, deadpan delivery. An impressive vocal talent, a highlight of the show is her performance of It’s Raining Men, accompanied by shocking scenes of our characters rioting, accompanied by video footage of a similar ilk. It’s a powerful delivery and a bold statement.
Albion only borders on being a musical and it shouldn’t work – karaoke, tracksuits and racist slurs shouldn’t be enjoyable to watch – but it’s captivating and tantalising. Driven by palatable characters demonstrating controversial beliefs on current affairs, this is a provocative and poetic performance that shows what happens when ordinary people are censored. Incredibly, this is only playwright Chris Thompson’s second production; it’s a fearless and a bitter insight into an underserved class of people. Nothing short of electrifying.
Photo: Richard Davenport
Albion is on at the Bush Theatre from 12th September until 25th October, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Albion here: