In a modern London secondary school, a white teacher Amanda is involved in a scuffle with black student Jason. When Jason lies to protect himself and coerces his friends into supporting him, he unleashes a malicious maelstrom which affects careers and relationships and unearths unwelcome past secrets.
Joint winner of the Bruntwood Prize for new plays, Vivienne Franzmann’s Mogadishu lands at the Lyric Theatre for its London premiere. Franzmann taught drama for twelve years at schools across London and that experience is visible everywhere, not least in her accurate ear for the sharp and witty banter between the potty-mouthed patois-spewing pupils.
The acting is faultless and powerful throughout especially among the younger characters. Shannon Tarbet as Becky, Amanda’s forthright daughter who sees through middle-class liberal hypocrisies and playground bullyboy tactics makes Chloe Moretz’s character in Kick-Ass look like a choirgirl. Malachi Kirby as Jason does well to expose the vulnerability and self-doubt at the heart of this thug and anyone looking for the next Idris Elba would do well to see Fraser James who, as Jason’s father, has a small but potent role.
This could well be the play of 2011, not only for its quality but because it is firmly planted in modern times. If this play has a flaw, it is in the language used. Some theatregoers will be put off by the swearing but, more importantly, the street slang (including 'bare', 'fierce' and 'butterz') used by Jason and his friends will fall out of use and will soon age the play itself.
After last year’s successes, the Lyric Theatre now has another hit on its hands. This will do for the inner city secondary school what the History Boys did for posh grammar schools. With its multi-layered plot, societal themes, fertile language and conflicted characters, this is modern Shakespeare by any other name and deserves to be both transferred in time to a larger venue and onto school curricula. We hope that this production’s future is unlike the last to transfer from the Lyric: Ghost Stories worked well in the smaller venue but fails to live up to expectations in its new incarnation at the Duke of York due to an over-the-top (albeit award-winning) marketing campaign.
Mogadishu will be at the Lyric Theatre until 2 April. Tickets and more information are available here.