The Initiate

It is almost worth going to see The Initiate for the theatre space alone. Well-renowned theatre company Paines Plough have a mission to bring theatre to areas that do not usually get to experience it in their own area. With that end in mind, they have designed the Roundabout Auditorium, a 'pop-up' theatre in the round which can be folded up and fitted into a lorry. It's a very impressive space.

There isn't a scene in which two people aren't brought into direct confrontation, and scarcely a scene in which someone doesn't raise their voice.

The Initiate tells the story of a British taxi driver of Somali descent who hears that Somali pirates have captured two British tourists. In order to give his son something to be proud of (along with other more complex motives), he raises some money and goes over to Somalia to personally negotiate the release of the hostages.

This is quite clearly a political play. Most of the conversations deal very directly with the issues it covers, and it manages to give a pretty thorough breakdown of the problems of being British Somali when all anyone hears on the news about your old home are stories of violence and horror. A range of different perspectives are given, and the play takes a few pleasingly unexpected turns.

The three members of the cast manage their parts well. The two supporting actors are particularly noteworthy for playing at least three characters each, managing roles as diverse as a teenage boy, Somali pirate, and a jobsworth boss.

There is an old adage in playwriting that each scene should be built around some form of conflict. I found myself wishing that the writer, Alexandra Wood, had relaxed that rule a bit. There isn't a scene in which two people aren't brought into direct confrontation, and scarcely a scene in which someone doesn't raise their voice. While this makes for an intense hour of theatre, the relentless arguing becomes a bit wearing after a while.

Ultimately, this is a play that does exactly what it says on the tin, dealing with the highly current themes with intelligence, even if it is usually at an elevated volume.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A British couple are seized by Somali pirates. In East London, a Somali taxi driver decides to rescue them. Meeting disbelief with determination, he dismisses his wife’s fears and flies out to negotiate their release. Speeding from the banks of the Thames to the now unfamiliar world of his homeland, he confronts the family he left behind and the bravado of the defiant men he once called brothers. A thrilling tale of altruism, greed, and the search for how to belong from George Devine award-winning playwright Alexandra Wood.