Presented as part of the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture, Brent 2020, a trio of short plays are performed together in NW Trilogy now playing at the Kiln Theatre. Anyone familiar with North West London will tell you that it’s a vibrant community that borders both central London and Hertfordshire, with a host of interesting characters and a surprising history that all add to the appeal of these three short works.
The Kiln Theatre, itself located in NW6 continues its tradition of sharing local stories alongside international works. NW Trilogy couldn’t be more local, exploring the vibrant life of Kilburn and the surrounding areas.
While each of the plays is very different in its approach, structure and narrative, there are some recurring themes that run through them. The experiences of newcomers to London from the Commonwealth, and how they were viewed and treated, sits at the top that list, as does the treatment of the Irish.
Music also plays an important role, indeed the production, directed by Taio Lawson and Susie McKenna, opens with the drunken aftermath of a party, and the hangover that will ensue, in Moira Buffini’s Dance Floor. This is the shortest of the three, but in true Buffini style, manages to say the most.
Roy Williams’ Life of Riley is the only two hander, a London telephone box is decorated with a National Front poster, a prop that remains on stage for the final play, which also happens to be set in 1976.
Harmony Rose Bremmer as Paulette, and Chris Tummings as Riley bring us an estranged father and daughter who may have issues to resolve, but can do so through a love of music. Racism rears its ugly head in the lives of Paulette and Riley but the play chooses a more endearing and hopeful path to place its focus.
Suhayla El-Bushra’s Waking/Walking completes the line-up. With the biggest cast and most fully formed characters, this is a play that could easily enjoy a run by itself. On one hand it is an affecting and emotional drama, with Anjali (Natasha Jayetileke) and Deepak (Ronny Jhutti) struggling to adapt to their new lives in London. But there’s a healthy dose of comedy in the form of Susheela (Rina Fatania), who brings a great deal of joy to balance the harder themes of the play.
Waking/Walking takes a real life event – a factory picket line – and tells the story from the perspective of one of the women involved, as opposed to the white men who have had their stories shared more often than is necessary. Indeed, all three plays take inspiration from the people of Brent, and the play is all the richer for it.
Movement, music and protest are at the core of NW Trilogy and that makes it feel like a thrilling, if bittersweet, journey back through the history of a borough that has welcomed people from all over the world to help rebuild the nation. But far from feeling like a history lesson, NW Trilogy brings the past to life and perhaps reminds us that previous mistakes are dangerously close to being repeated.
NW Trilogy is at The Kiln Theatre until 9th October 2021.