Thugz N Tearz

A play with this many Zs in its title should not be this good. And nor should a play with Thugz n Tearz’s dubious premise: an exploration of London gang culture in the structure of a Jacobean revenge tragedy. Yet Raw Perception Productions have made just that – their idea fully realised, perfectly pitched, and delivering an immensely satisfying whole. It moulds new language and societal hierarchies wonderfully and inventively into a form that harnesses both the structural completeness and madcap chaos of its traditional models.The plot starts with a gang shooting of a masculine, misogynist hero, a mid-level operative, but with plenty of bling. He is felled by two creepy witch-like females who answer to a mighty lord – a dreadlocked gang leader, as wise and fair as he is dangerous and commanding. The victim of the first shooting returns, with companions and confidants. His rival is chosen and paired with a snivelling, cocaine-addict fool. The scene is set for a classic duel, a revenge tragedy, complete with ornate goblets, the slinging of vulgar – often sexual - insults and a sprinkling of religious introspection. It’s the ideal tragedy – in a surprisingly ideal language, that of the criminal sub-cultures of modern London.It is in the command of these structures that the show really takes off and therein that it finds its slickness and drive. Instead of being tacked-on, the modern setting finds its shape around the old. Instead of a corny, faux-natural impression of urban speech, the dialogue matches the ornamentation of its predecessors, winding line after line of linguistic density around one another, enjoying its peculiarity and exaggerating its most useful parts, whilst never letting it slide into caricature. It understands tragedy’s misrule – verbose subordinates and male aggression; whilst also lingering on the proximity of death to the culture it occupies.Unfortunately this play has a message, and occasionally takes an aside from its otherwise gripping narrative to really let you know about it. Our tragic revenge hero is also after redemption – he has found God, or more particularly Allah, and in doing so hopes to transcend the criminal, immoral cycles of gang culture. Thematically it offers a chance for the cycle of tragedy to break too, but stylistically it feels preachy, creating a correlation - between religion and morality - that is far too problematic to bare treatment this simple.Yet these sermons are short-lived and, for the most part, Thugz n Tearz offers a gripping revenge plot, sparkling dialogue and a well-realised structure. For all its slang, its guns and its tracksuits, it’s an unashamedly traditional piece of theatre, perhaps the most traditional I’ve seen here, and all the better for it.

Reviews by Tom Moyser

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The Blurb

Inspired by true events, a theatrical insight into a well-established East London drug empire. You live, you f*ck, you eat, you get shot... if you’re lucky you don’t die. 'A modern day Jacobean' (April De Angelis).

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