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Nine Lives

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Four stars
As soon as Zimbabwean refugee Ishmael screws in an over-head bulb in
the inner-city high-rise he must now call home at the start of Zodwa
Nyoni's painfully pertinent monologue, it casts the harshest of lights
on one of the most criminally marginalised sectors of society, both at
home and abroad. As a young gay man forced to flee his home-land,
Ishmael faces a frying pan/fire situation as he's thrown onto the mean
streets of Leeds.

When not holed-up in his room or trying to get his former lover to pick
up the phone, Ishmael must run the gauntlet of a concrete jungle where
pit bulls and young single mums run wild. Ishmael strikes up a
friendship with Bex and her toddler son, Bailey, only to run scared
from their brief encounter lest he continue living a lie. Even as he
finds some kind of salvation via the bright lights down-town, however,
Ishmael's future looks far from certain.

Arriving in a climate in which some far right political parties would
rather doors were closed to people like Ishmael, Nyoni's play couldn't
be more timely. Rather than fall back on easy polemic, however, Nyoni
instead offers up a complex and multi-faceted saga about one man forced
to live between personal borders not of his own making.

Director Alex Chisholm draws a vibrant performance from Llandel Bryant
in this co-production between A Play, A Pie and A Pint and West
Yorkshire Playhouse. As Bryant flits between Ishmael's monologue and
exchanges with Bex and others, the wit of the writing and lightness of
the playing style gives the play its depth, even as Ishmael's story
remains unresolved.

The Herald, May 20th 2014


ends

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