Moreno at Theatre 503
In 2016, on the cusp of Donald Trump’s presidency, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made waves upon his decision to repeatedly take the knee during the national anthem. Kaepernick stated that he refused to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
In Pravin Wilkins’s Moreno, an unnamed team are participating in their own record-breaking season, having just signed start-player Luis Moreno. As the news unfolds, they must decide what place (if any) they have in the movement. Encapsulating the infamous energy of a boy’s locker room (an effort supported by stunning set-design from Aldo Vasquez), Pravin’s work dissects notions of teamwork and brotherhood, questioning not only if politics belong on the pitch or whether or not these relationships run deeper than their resultant paycheques and fame.
While the structure of the script is a little formulaic, the story is an important one that deserves to be heard. The events described are taking place in 2016, but these stories are not dissimilar to those occurring today, further supporting Pravin’s exploration of change and progress and what it takes for a movement to be successful.
With sensitive direction from Nancy Medina, the performers on stage are equal parts charismatic and compelling. Sebastián Capitán Viveros takes on the titular role of Moreno with remarkable ease, effortlessly switching between cocky and money-hungry in act one to an activist putting his career on the line in act two. Joseph Black, as Ezekiel Williams, is perhaps the star of the evening, giving an incredibly nuanced performance as a man who just wants to do the right thing. Hayden McLean provides (necessary) comedic relief as Cre’Von Garson, particularly through his bromance with Moreno, while also drawing upon the complexities of the movement and whether or not he should get involved with “the drama”. Matt Whitchurch, as Danny Lombardo, is equally enthralling – even if his character fails to make the kind of progress the audience craves.
Moreno won the 2020 Theatre 503 International Playwriting Award and is a satisfying debut from Pravin Wilkins. Though it sometimes falls into a predictable form, the writer’s balance of comedy and politics speaks to the promise of his future endeavours. In short, this is a compelling evening of theatre that is enjoyable even for those who don’t know the first thing about American football.
Photo: Adiam Yemane
Moreno is at Theatre 503 from 1st March until 26th March 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.