“RIP Brian” reads the chalkboard as we are led into Custody, the Ovalhouse stage has become the site of a memorial, surrounded by flowers, candles and mementos of remembrance. The silhouette of a head hangs above the cast, who wander aimlessly amongst the tributes. And so, begins a play, created by Urbain Hayo, written by Tom Wainwright and directed by Gbemisola Ikumelo, that is deeply dark and disturbing, but pure storytelling at its best.
Brian is the apple of his mother’s eye; a success, he runs his own business, has money and a flash car. He is also black. So when he is pulled over by the police and the white officers enact terrible brutality, Brian becomes the latest young black man to die in custody.
The cloth that forms the silhouette is soon ripped away to reveal a deeper stage, just as the storyline takes on a great deal more depth. In a relatively short space of time, a huge amount of storytelling is packed in, as the family comes to terms with what’s happened; trying to carry on as normal. Then comes the long fight for justice which becomes too exhausting for all of them, but is so compelling to watch.
Karlina Grace-Paseda, playing Mother, etches out the agony in her face. Her eyes twitching almost uncontrollably as she is told of her sons demise. Kiké Brimah, as Sister, is the militant of the family determined to fight for what is right, while Sacharissa Claxton is the Lover, who knew Brian better than anyone but feels excluded from the family circle. Creator, Urbain Hayo a.k.a Urban Wolf, plays Brother, the younger sibling who was never quite as good as Brian was, yet it is he who manages, somehow, to hold the family together.