Duck is a one-man show telling the story of Ismail- or Smiley to his friends. Smiley attends a private school and his goal for the summer term is to beat the school’s batting record and get entered into the famous Wisden. As a teacher at a boarding school, who had just finished the summer term herself, the descriptions of the setting and scenario are very familiar and recognisable. Our cricket programme is currently being re-hauled with a bigger focus on team spirit and the relationships established within the team. Although this play, definitely deals with bigger issues, I found the descriptions of how the team treated each other horrific. I believe that this play demonstrates why our re-haul is so important for the sport.
One of Smiley’s challenges is the arrival of a new coach, Mr. Eagles. Mr. Eagles seems to take an immediate dislike to Smiley and as it plays out that his behaviour is definitely influenced by his Islamophobia. The play is set during a time where the climate towards Muslims was very tense, and specifically deals with the events of 7/7 and England’s famous Ashes victory. Although set during 2005- the events still feel very current and recognisable. Racism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and so much more are still very present in society. The school, as many schools of this nature are, is set up to be a very white, straight, upper class scenario, where those that are ‘different’ are not quite as visible as elsewhere in society. This emphasises Smiley’s feelings of isolation created by the fantastic writer maatin.
The Studio setting in the Arcola Theatre creates a very intimate location for this story to be told. This allows Omar Bynon, Smiley, to really embrace the audience, even throwing a cricket ball to one member in the beginning of the piece. You really feel that you as the audience are the only safe space where Smiley can truly express himself and his feelings. Bynon does an incredible job, captivating the audience for 85 minutes without an interval, all by himself- a brilliant feat. He does this under the direction of Imy Wyatt Corner. The set was very simple, to match the studio setting, with a few pieces of hanging white cloth used to hide the props in a basket behind them, but also to project various images and a transcript to allow the performance to be captioned for all to enjoy. There was also a piece of fake grass on the floor. I found the set almost too simplistic and basic- although I believe it would have been designed on a budget. Overall, the play was thoroughly enjoyable and an excellent of example of what a studio performance space should be used for.
- Show title: Duck
- Venue: Arcola Theatre
- Review date: Saturday 15th July