Watching a play that a friend (Stephen Sharkey) has written is a different experience from an arms-length stranger. A play based in one of your local neighborhoods (or right next door to your ‘hood) is rare. Where race, culture, Englishness and a sweep of history collide and you can see part of yourself reflected on the stage – it makes for a play of our times.
As I’ve mentioned before (link end) my life has echoes of Zadie Smith’s (West London / NW London – Cambridge – May Anthologies – Harvard – writing – race) and White Teeth echoes with a time and place, which is partly my time and place growing up.
It mixes culture and a certain optimism (an optimism of a youthful writer?) with an opposing fatalism and sense of doom. But ending with a point to the future. Go escape and be free - FutureMouse ™ !
The play echoes the book in that regard. But – to the team’s enormous credit – the play is its own piece of art. It riffs on the novel, but is not slaved to it. A truism to say a play is not a novel, but adaptations can fall foul of the gravity and anchor of the originating work. This breaks free.
Losing the intensity of reading Zadie’s sentences (Zadie: “Edit as I go Along. Every sentence. Many times.”) reveals the elements of story and character that reflect a British-born immigrant narrative. My own narrative. A narrative of Kilburn and Willesden.
The addition of zinging movement and catchy songs brings White Teeth elements of the musical form. That heightened sense brings at its best an emotional punch and a sensory feast – a form uniquely theatrical over novelistic.
It’s at the newly refurbished Kiln Theatre. It’s on Kilburn High Road.
I’m bias as my friend wrote it and it echoes with me, but brimming with energy, catchy songs, dance moves, a passionate cast and a British-Kilburn story – what’s not to like?
3 blogs on Zadie: Writing tips, some Q&A and interview, and her piece on her advice from dancers
Hear about the chat with legendary agent, Mel Kenyon.
Some notes from listening to the literary manager of the Royal Court, Chris Campbell.
Be inspired by Artistic Director, Kate Wasserberg’s Dauntless Theatre.