Review of ‘No Man’s Island’: “There’s something on the air”

London’s Big House Theatre opens its doors to clandestine reality, with this play about an illegal radio station and the lives of those who give it voice to. Guillermo Nazara shares his thoughts on this original show, to let us know what’s to expect in this story of commitment, fight and brotherhood.

Life is a podcast. Why? No idea – it just sounded good. But you can’t possibly say I didn’t look deep for a minute – I assume that’s how long it took you to read the first sentence. Jokes apart (just sparing your feelings…), the correlation between media and real life may be stronger than we might believe at a start. Both can be true and fake at the same time; both come to this world in search of their own voice; and by all means, they both need an audience to justify their existence.

Taking off within the tumultuous excitement of the early 2000s, No Man’s Island carries us to the pot-studded frenzy of a North London flat (that makes me suspicious about how much its North London venue inspired them…), where a big family of friends, lovers and relatives set up a pirate radio station in pursue of one rowdy ambition: speaking their minds. Tears, laughter and politics (aka clowning) merge together in this strong whirlpool of everyday stories by everyday people – all of them connected but one powerful invisible thread made out of air waves.

Written by James Meteyard and Jammz, both the show’s premise and structure are extremely appealing, resulting in a complex choral-story tapestry whose little subplots intermingle to create an ultimate bigger one-way narrative. Conceived in the right manner, there are however a few amendments the play could benefit from, as the placing of some of the characters’ journeys (occasionally too distanced among their different parts) make it a bit difficult to follow, while also a few of them jam the overall recount with too many inputs for a viewer to connect with.

This, nonetheless, is not too big an obstacle for the performance to be satisfying in general, particularly thanks to one distinctive trait: its cast. The company is, in all honesty, brilliant – delivering their parts not only with undeniable dedication, but also with refreshing stamina and, above all, incredible naturality. You may like or not what you’re being told about, but you certainly can’t like who’s telling it to you.

Directed by Maggie Norris, the use of the stage space, emulating some immersiveness despite the limited possibilities of its theatre, contribute to a more alluring visual, which is enhanced by Tina Torbey’s adequate set design. Eventually bringing out a faster, more engaging pacing, the overall rhythm is also influenced by Jammz’s original and live performed rap songs. The repertoire serves as both entertaining and setting tool, but once in a while flaws the show’s general speed with too long musical moments that, should they be otherwise reduced, would enhance the effect they were devised for.

More than often we associate young with inexperienced, which often translates into underachievement. Fortunately, in this case it’s a synonym of refreshing. The remarkable competence of this production’s troupe is an absolute reason to come and enjoy a play that, despite some minor flaws, still manages to find its place and make a sign for it. With an assertive though not necessarily preachy understanding of the world and a good dose of high drama, surely this is not a show to put up with any dead air.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All pictures credit to Dan Corbett.

No Man’s Island plays at London’s The Big House Theatre until 27 May. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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