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Review: Kings, at New Diorama Theatre

Community, territory and magic in hard-hitting play that follows the struggles of four rough sleepers

13 October, 2017 — By Sabrina Dougall


CENTRED on four rough sleepers, Kings lifts the lid on the most ignored people in society. A few days in the life of Britain’s wanderers, theatre company Smoke & Oakum’s latest offering is a wonder of community, territory and magic.

After debuting at Edinburgh Fringe this summer, Kings comes to the New Diorama, nestled among the high-rise offices of Regent’s Place.

Though she was dealt a rough hand, Caz (Madeleine MacMahon) has learnt card tricks of her own. Running from a dark past, cocky young Caz seems to read hearts and minds. A vital performance from MacMahon, the hard-nosed homeless woman sets sparks flying when she suddenly rocks up to trio Hannah, Bess and Ebi’s camp under a railway bridge.

In association with Centrepoint, the ironically titled Kings screws common beliefs about the “options” open to the homeless, showcasing the indefatigability of the human will to survive.

Writer Oli Forsyth bills himself as a poet, yet the play has few beautiful phrases, as the down-to-earth everyman cast discourse upon value and worth, despair and hope, fairness and freedom. Moments of humour and convincing anguish (Emma James is a compelling 19-year-old misfit) hit just the right notes for a taboo topic which threatens to thoroughly depress.

Well-intentioned as the script is, about a third of the dialogue could have been cut and occasional preachiness slowed the pace.

Electrician Ebi’s only function is to say: “I’ve been a taxpayer most of my life in this country” – a line that could have been given to another character anyway.

A harder-hitting play would have emerged from a three-woman cast.

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