This month has seen the return of an outstanding production called ‘Angelic Tales,’ at the infamous Theatre Royal Stratford East. To my knowledge, the series of plays has been produced in conjunction with the ever talented, zealous and charming director/writer/composer/choreographer Rikki Beadle Blair under the ‘Team Angelica,’ company in order to deliver a series of 5 plays over the course of 5 evenings throughout September. Unfortunately, a girl’s gotta work and although I really had my eyes on at least 3 of the plays I couldn’t make them all but I had to commit myself to seeing at least one show – that show was ‘Magnetic,’ by writer/actor/musician Edd Muruako.
Now, Magnetic was the first play I’ve seen in a good little while – the last time I saw something was at The Richmix in Bethnal Green and it was a rendition of ‘Macbeth.’ All I had to go on was the subject heading on the flyer my friend had sent to me. The incredible cast consisted of ; Che Walker, James Ferrar, Benjamin Fensome and the writer Edd Muruako.
The first half of the play (bearing in mind this was a straight run and there was no interval) but in my mind there was a distinct first half and a second half – we were introduced to the characters of Ian and Johnny played by Muruako and Ferrar – two best friends who have a considerably close relationship, which at first doesn’t raise too many questions. However, as we get further into the play, a growing underlying tension is obvious, although the reasons behind this are not known to the audience.
There is especially a dichotomy in Johnny’s attitude and behaviour when his homophobic and racist brother Trevor (played by Che Walker) is around. He calls the character of Ian a “fairy” and worries his brother has been turned “soft” and can’t “speak proper” anymore after hanging out with his black, gay best friend over the years.
This is a refreshingly simple but powerfully written play about the vast complexities of relationships and in the words of Muruako during his Q&A it is about how we as humans are “attracted or repelled” to others. There is the composite relationship between Ian and Johnny who share “sleepovers,” regularly. There is the uneasy dynamic between Trevor who constantly eggs on younger brother Johnny into fights due to his shattered dreams of a lost boxing career. We also witness the interesting relationship that unfurls between Fensome and Muruako’s characters and although they share hilarious scenes which provide well crafted comic relief in between heavier moments of the play, Muruako also candidly and boldly communicates to his audience some of the issues that can be mutually present in gay and straight relationships – there are comments made by Fensome’s character which fetishize Muruako and put him in a particularly awkward position and one point in the play and it becomes clearer that Ian’s comfort levels and boundaries on his quest to find requited love force him to face his fears and desires. Everything culminates in an explosive ending as we become aware of each of the character’s own ‘truths’ in each of their final scenes on stage.. After the revelations, there’s a great deal of cathartic release but also a lot to ponder on an interpersonal and conversational level once the play is over. One thing that specifically stuck with me was the way in which Muruako tactfully built up multi-faceted characters and not just one dimensional people. He gave each character different sides and developed a valid naturalistic humanity about them – each had their good and bad sides as we all do. The only real gripe I had was the fact that I sometimes found the use of scripts being used throughout the performance a little distracting but I got over it!
I really had a great evening watching this performance. Everything from the vibe within the theatre, to the warmth of the director, actors and even audience members added to a unique experience for me within the theatre as things can often be a bit stiff depending on where you go and what you see. The writing was expertly skilled and it’s great to see the championing of talented writer’s being given the chance to put their work in the spotlight. I’ll definitely be checking out the Angelic Tales series next time around and would highly recommend you check out work by the leading man – Edd Muruako, if this play is reproduced do yourself a favour and go see it!