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Belgrade Theatre review: Crongton Knights

Crongton Knights, Belgrade, to Feb 22.

A botched mugging. Compromising photographs used for a blackmail. A kidnapping gone wrong. A class riot. Any of these could be the topic of a hard-hitting drama, but in this uncompromising new show, all these events take place over the course of a simmering 24 hours on a rundown inner-city estate.

Based on the hit books by Alex Wheatle, and drawing on shades of Spike Lee’s 1989 classic Do The Right Thing, this bitingly relevant musical drama centres on six youngsters fighting for survival at the dog-eat-dog Crongton Estate.

From the start the show bursts with energy, as fresh-faced and angel-voiced teen Venetia (Aimee Powell) leads the band of friends into the no-go badlands of the Notre Dame estate to retrieve her phone from gangster boyfriend Sergio.

Olisa Odele shines as MacKay, timid brother of menacing gang leader Nesta (Marcel White), while Nigar Yeva gives an incandescent performance as feisty Syrian refugee Saira, whose experiences in her home country make the Crongton violence seem as tame as a toddler’s tea party.

Musical theatre may seem an unlikely choice to deliver a story of this grittiness, and the super-talented (and super-young) Pilot Theatre cast liberally intersperse the drama with humour - the chase scenes at times descend into Keystone Kops territory. In a good way.

But the comedy doesn't get in the way of the show unflinchingly confronting violence head-on, with a truly terrifying depiction of a street robbery.

As a 40-something mum from Coventry, I may not be the best judge of what constitutes an authentic approach to gang warfare, so don’t just take my word for it. This from my 14-year-old son: “Did you enjoy it Edward?” “Yes, I did.” Take it from me, from my taciturn teen this constitutes a rave review.

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