Review: The Frontline

By John Nathan, July 18, 2008
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Shakespeare’s Globe, London SE1

London audiences are used to the “Miserables”. Now meet the “Invisibles”. In the Globe’s first attempt to reflect modern London on its Shakespearean stage, this is how the hustlers, prostitutes, fantasists, drug dealers, drug users, do-gooders and ne’r-do-wells that populate Ché Walker’s play announce themselves.

Anyone who has walked the streets around Camden Tube station, in North London, will know where writer Ché Walker draws the inspiration for his 22 characters.

They include Golda Resheuvel’s junkie street-evangelist, as well as a forlorn Withnail-type thespian desperate to attract attention for his one-man play.

There is also a deluded loner who sees the face of his missing daughter in every woman; a knife-wielding hooker who wants a future with the bookish bouncer at the local strip club; Somali gangs and an Ethiopian hash dealer who is slain by a the play’s only stereotype — a quasi-fascist Kray-style gangster. Walker’s writing has always had a Runyonesque quality to it. And with the vice-versus-virtue theme, there are certainly shades of Guys and Dolls here.

But director Matthew Dunster must have had a fit when he saw the script which demands that actors speak over one another and several plot lines develop simultaneously.

Only in the second half does he manage to pull into focus this rambling show, which although brimful of life, is rather like a night out in Camden — it leaves you happy to head home. (Tel: 020 7401 9919)

    Last updated: 11:34am, July 17 2008