Review: SHOOK

IN BRIEF Papatango prize winner spotlights offending fathers-to-be in well-written and acted debut

“Don’t be like me” is the only advice youth offender Cain can give to his as yet unborn child.

In Samuel Bailey’s Papatango prize-winning SHOOK, at Southwark Playhouse’s Little space, three fractured, young child-men in a young offenders unit are soon to be fathers themselves. They are being coached in childcare by visitor Grace, a mother herself who becomes the only adult in the equation.

Each of the trio is different: rowdy, manic Cain, chilled Riyad and hunched, twitchy Jonjo. Yet all three find a kind of security. For Cain, it’s the only “Home” he has really had. For Riyad it keeps him apart from rivals. And as for Jonjo, it’s space to reflect.

The group play exceptionally well as an ensemble. The small studio space gives a usefully claustrophobic feel. The set design reflects the basic functionality and knackered look of a secure unit.

There are some funny lines along the way, however I was struck at the sadness of the characters and that their lack of functioning family background which to some extent had contributed to their current predicament. As Riyad says “this moment doesn’t have to define you”; but when so much is out of your control, the potential for it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy is enormous.

We are left with the triple ending of one released, one caught up in more trouble, and another just biding his time. It’s a bleak picture, not one that I enjoyed much, but it was well-written and acted throughout.

SHOOK plays until November 23rd at Southwark Playhouse. Details and tickets here


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