Fringe Online 2021
Jermyn Street Theatre in Association with WOLAB and the Arts Council Pulse Award
Directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair for JST’s Footprints Festival. Choregraphed by Nadia Sohawon. Lighting by Johanna Town’s straightforward. P J McEvoy’s Projection designer, Sound design by Tinying Dong. Millie Bhatia’s Dramaturg, Alistair Wilkinson’s Producer, Ali Wright’s Photographer. Camera work from several angles (Director Mark Swadel, Operator Balazs Weidner), including seventy-five degrees overhead, are deftly sequenced. Till June 24th. Filmed and may be later available as stream.
A game of one half and no interval, just 45 minutes. But it’s a truly powered-up lap round the pitch before we’re through. There’s a lot about halves here and lives half-articulated, parenting half-abandoned.
So hauling on her kitbag, appearing in the right shirt (she knows which one’s so last year) Rugby-born Lizzie’s first game was Coventry v Man City. It’s 1997, before many things: Bend it With Beckham (that was 2002), still less the recent fracas with the aborted super-league. So this wasn’t that Man City, but the days where Man City was decidedly in the shadow of Man U but with nicer fans.
Directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair for JST’s Footprints Festival, Eng-er-Land is choregraphed by Nadia Sohawon, with straightforward, simple lighting by Johanna Town. P J McEvoy’s Projection designer, Sound design’s by Tinying Dong.
Hannah Kumari – a Creative Associate of JST soloing in her own Eng-er-Land – bounces on in MC livery. Her character Lizzie fell in love then; been obsessed ever since. She’s calling to nice blonde friends and keeps identifying anxiously with them. Her father’s Scottish, supports Rangers (so must be Protestant Lizzie figures, never having been told). He left her mother, is distant, edgy; his new son’s blond too.
Lizzie doesn’t fit anywhere. Decidedly British, decidedly not belonging anywhere but almost pathetically grateful when anyone even pretends she does. The title suggests a nation splintered with itself, rather than Coventry or Man U. Lizzie’s from everywhere too, not just the Midlands: Scotland, England itself, India… What is England?
There’s a wildly funny bit when armed with her new CD Walkman Lizzie plays last year’s Eurovision third place from 1996 Gina G’s ‘Ooh ah’ which aged thirteen Lizzie sort of gets but is on the cusp of dancing and thinking of sex, more explicitly. Kumari’s infectious energy gets laughs as she negotiates a teen’s sashay into dance, innocence tinged with energy. Then at Coventry taking out her kid nephew Ryan litanising the players’ names.
But something happens to make Lizzie question her place on those hallowed terraces. Someone’s staring. Will even some who know her help? And who’s this boy who looks like Keanu Reeve? And will anyone score?
There’s even more here you hope might be unpacked in a longer piece, but above all writer/performer Hannah Kumari’s Eng-er-Land is optimistic, skilled at tackling the smile of acceptance, the shibboleths of exclusion and knowing the difference. The work’s terrific energy, Kumari’s powers of engagement and moving constantly as if about to score a winning goal of her own (she does), leave you alert and exhilarated, as if you’d just taken one of Lizzie’s offered energy tablets.