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Belgrade B2 review: I Ain't Dumb


By ANNETTE KINSELLA

I Ain’t Dumb, B2 Belgrade Theatre, to Feb 12

One of the most insane films ever made is widely acknowledged to be London To Brighton in Four Minutes.

Produced by the BBC in the 50s, the film tracks a speeded-up driver's eye view of a train journey from London Victoria to Brighton, rattling through the trip in a mere 240 seconds.

I'm not aware of any stage version of this film but for a similar experience, if you get the chance, try I Ain't Dumb, a new show from Coventry-born playwright Tom Wright.

Centring on the lives of five troubled teens in an unnamed deprived inner-city secondary, Wright delivers a Tyson Fury of a plot, swinging relentless hammer blows on his audience every five minutes.

Bam! Gay student Ceiron (Simon Castle) is the victim of a suspected sex attack and revenge porn.

Pow! Bereaved racist-turned-good Tash (Nicole Mbaeri) struggles to come to term with the police brutality that cost her brother his life.

Biff! Reclusive knife-wielding introvert Mary finds acceptance by joining a gang and pays the ultimate price.

The experience was akin to rattling through a week of Hollyoaks plotlines on fast forward.

There's no doubt there is a wealth of talent among the young cast. Harry Rose in particular shines as Leon, struggling to reconcile his desire to live up to masculine stereotypes with his feelings for Ceiron. If we struggle to connect with the characters on occasion, it is more down to the speed at which the action hurtles along, rather than any failing of the actors.

But ultimately there's no doubt that Wright knows his subject and his city. One line, "Our parents came here, and we'll never leave", brought a whoop of recognition from the audience.

A final mention must be made of the set itself. Sparsely decorated, the action plays out against an innovative digital background, using modern perspectives of Coventry to root the conflict firmly in a gritty cityscape.

Overall the show was punchy and relevant, even if the breakneck speed left the audience breathless. It's the first time I'd emerged from the theatre feeling I'd gone five rounds in the ring with a heavyweight... but I think I liked it.

Pictured: Harry Rose as Leon, Kavita Vyas as Mary and Vikas Gogana as Vikram (photo by Alex Brenner).