No Gypsy Child of Mine

Contemporary east London. Stratford and Newham councils are forcibly possessing properties to make space for the grandiose rebuilding schemes for the 2012 Olympics, one of which has been occupied by a travelling community for decades. The action is split between the political macro-picture and the tensions between Billy, (self-appointed?) leader of the gypsies, and his daughter Kirsty.

It all starts promisingly as the large playing area is filled, thanks to Anabel Temple, production designer, with large candy-striped boxes (later variously swivelled round to provide domestic furniture and other scenery) suggesting a circus/fun fair setting, with all the cast arrayed, Kirsty sitting on a trapeze, as Billy takes on the role of ringmaster setting the scene and introducing the characters. This stylisation is largely eschewed for the rest of the production and most of the other scenes are played in small pools of light seemingly cowering in the large area of dark surrounding. The political scenes tend towards the preachy; the domestic ones, with Kirsty vacillating between loyalty to her community/family and escape to the world of her non-gypsy mother, are static, stilted and largely passionless. From a mostly young undistinguished cast, Stephen Chance stands out as Billy bringing a fiery edge to a role he is too young for by at least thirty years, even if such an accent has not been heard since the cheaper British cinematic output of the early talkies featuring the ‘umble working classes, guv’nor.

Having chosen the circus angle to animate what she must have feared would have been a fairly arid debate piece, writer Caroline David is unableto marry together the social realist and stylised aspects of her conception. Director Sita Ramamurthy is perhaps more used to working in small studio stages because here, given the opportunity to fill a goodly space with the sweeping movements of the over the (big) top world of the circus, she appears to be compelled to adhere to kinetic minimalism.

This is a pity. The London 2012 project deserves close artistic and political scrutiny, if not a good kicking. This diffuse play does not provide it. Unlike the daring young man on the flying trapeze, it remains, alas, resolutely earthbound.

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The Blurb

High on the trapeze, Kirsty dreams of freedom. Down on the ground, her family face eviction by the London Olympics. A lively, vaudeville play inspired by the traveller communities of East London.

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