I can’t remember the last time I watched new and emerging talent on stage, so Generation Arts‘ Dirty Special Thing at the Platform Theatre was a real treat. The company provides acting and theatre training projects for young people who have not been able to achieve academic qualifications, particularly those in marginalised communities. The diversity in the auditorium was so refreshing to see, and the audience’s excitement was infectious. I haven’t been in a theatre with that kind of atmosphere in such a long time, and I am so grateful that I was a part of it.
Set in London, the play is a collection of stories which intertwine with each other, giving the audience a glimpse of different people in the city. The audience is guided through the play by Joseph (great performance by Helder Fernandes), who is training to be a black cab driver. As he drives around the city, we are introduced to various characters like Christian (Sebastian Carrington-Howell), a city banker jealous of his colleague’s success, and Abu (Nestor Sayu), a street cleaner, desperately trying to put money together to take care of his pregnant wife and children. Full of aspects of London life that the audience can relate to, like how expensive everything is, and a shared disgust of the Piccadilly Line, the play combines humour with real life problems, such as the importance of the NHS to everyone in the country.
There are some talented actors in the show who stand out, such as Sayu, who was hilarious on stage. He was actually so fun to watch, and definitely an audience favourite. Carrington-Howell is also very talented, engulfing the character seamlessly. Additionally, Malik-Sankara Watson as Jerome, a great character who works with young people to help them reach their potential, is a brilliant performer. He was at times funny with his interactions with his girlfriend, and other times, he easily displayed his character’s emotional side, talking sincerely about the death of his younger brother. The rest of the ensemble work great together on stage, engaging the audience perfectly.
At times, the action became slightly repetitive, and some parts of the play could have been shorter. But the thought-provoking aspects of the play, such as Moneer Elmasseek as the Big Issue seller, who provides contemplative views on life, is what makes the play so engaging. What was great about the performance was the fact that the actors were a representation of diverse London, which for me made it exciting to watch. It is very refreshing to see this in the theatre, and I think Generation Arts is a great organisation that is trying to make this happen. The audience were reacting magnificently to the performance, and everyone, onstage and off, was very visibly having so much fun. For this, I really enjoyed the show. I hope the diversity demonstrated by the company is something which continues to expand throughout the arts.