Excluded at Intermission Theatre
After setting up the collaborative group of patrons, artistic directors and young actors to form the Intermission Youth Theatre in 2008, Darren Raymond uses his latest production to put some of the more iconic Shakespearean characters into a London secondary school, where they are preparing to take their GCSEs. The play intentionally focuses on the crisis point of our education system and the damaging effects of rising pupil exclusions.
Excluded starts in the foyer of St Saviour’s beautiful church, where a group of teenage school children gather. An altercation breaks out before the bell rings and we are invited to follow upstairs and into their make-believe classroom. We meet their weary yet passionate teacher, Miss Portia, played with convincing assertion by Rebecca Soper, and are then gradually immersed within the gritty and emotional stories and lives of her pupils at William High School.
Hard-hitting individual stories cover knife crime, prison and drug abuse, with jarring narratives of broken families emotively delivered by the softly spoken Brutus (Elijah Blunt) and flashes of bordering insanity and grief from the rather brilliant Hamlet (Oliver Knight). These vulnerable moments contrast well with the self-confident and charismatic Romeo (Ricardo P Lloyd), the feisty and confrontational Beatrice (Crerer Antony), who declares that “all school is doing is setting us up for disappointment”, and the assertive and charming Caesar (Alexander “X” Lobo Moreno), each of whom show us the brave facade these pupils wear at school to protect themselves against their complex and challenging home lives.
The group naturally oscillates between rivalry and pack mentality, which is carefully choreographed within the confines of the small theatre space. Desks are moved swiftly in between scenes and flutters of audience interaction really cement us to these characters’ emotions, which take us to a savage and unexpected finale.
The cast is split between two rotating groups of 29 actors. These fragile and turbulent performances are reflections of the young actors themselves, as nearly all of the cast have been excluded from mainstream schools. Professionally and passionately acted, Excluded is an insightful telling of the reality these schoolchildren face daily and is a wonderfully original expression of Shakespeare’s texts too.
Photo: Richard Jinman
Excluded is at Intermission Theatre from 5th until 30th November 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.