The State of Concrete

The Britwell estate, built in 1957, was created to rehouse people from the slum clearance areas of London and Essex. It’s also the location for LUTheatre’s The State of Concrete, which, according to the company, is ‘based on true stories, real people, and overheard conversations’.

Road is a difficult act to follow and The State of Concrete has not gone beyond it in saying anything new

According to the play’s cast list, those ‘real people’ consist of an ‘Old Lady, The Boffin, The Single Mum, The Depressive, The Prostitute, The Unemployed. The Teacher, Sean, 3 Asbos, 3 Kids, Druggie, The Immigrant and The Policeman’. Putting these two sets of information together, you have probably already worked out what follows and the opening scene completely gives it away: it is all predictable.

The Chameleon, who serves in the form of a narrator, is seated on scaffolding. Waving a copy of Jim Cartwright’s Road she reminds us that it’s nearly thirty years since he wrote that play and that nothing has changed. Confirmation indeed of the setting and the issues and also the foreseeable multiple scene format of visiting people’s homes and hanging out on the streets.

Overall the cast does an adequate job of creating the array of characters. Jade Pearce as The Chameleon is clear and confident as a guide and commentator. while proving to be humorously eccentric as the the Old Lady. Francesca Leone appears as The Depressive and The Prostitute, giving some thoughtful monologues, but it is Edward Kaye as Asbo 2 and Kid 1 who really commands the stage with strong performances in both roles, making maximum use of his powerful voice, expressive face and confident gait.

At seventy-five minutes, the production could easily be condensed without losing its message, while the dialogue could be given more edge and grit in many scenes. Road is a difficult act to follow and The State of Concrete has not gone beyond it in saying anything new, but it will appeal to those who wish for more in the same mould.

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The Blurb

Concrete is solid. The mould is made, the concrete fills the crevices, it’s done: finished. But there is a plastic stage. It can be something different. If you catch it quick. Set in a small neighbourhood on the deprived Britwell council estate, the action depicts the life and times of the children of the area: the future set out for them and how they get stuck. Based on true stories, real people, and overheard conversations, The State of Concrete shows the stereotypes and the exceptions to the rules, all living in the same community.