Park Theatre – until 4th August
Review by Heather Chalkley
The dips are on the table, Nick (Alan Mahon) is already drinking and Sophie (EJ Martin) is freaking out. She is desperate to get things back on track with her old friend Sarah (Claire Cartwright), concerned Sarah is being ‘groomed’ by the new boyfriend Ali (Nitin Kundra) to become a Muslim extremist. What more could you add to a perfect evening at home entertaining friends? Throw in a few amphetamines, plenty of alcohol, some frank talking, the appearance of Ali’s ex-wife (Reena Lalbihari) and a sick child and you have Alkaline!
From the outset the Director Sarah Meadows cleverly set the play to feel like you were listening through the living room window, to one of those everyday conversations you never see. It makes you question yourself. Is it just my family who has these discussions? Do we hide our ignorance with arrogance and pretend to be knowledgeable and cosmopolitan? By expressing our derogatory views about the plight of the victims of austerity/racism/sexism, how many of us are showing our arrogance and need to check our privilege?
The questions for me continue. Which character was actually being honest? Martin expressed Sophie’s fears with a naivety, laying bare the ignorance fed her through an all white middle class upbringing. She showed her as a vulnerable, lost and confused character not knowing what to do about any of it. Cartwright gave Sarah calmness and strength, a sense of sadness that others cannot be pleased for the happiness her new faith has given her. She was honest about the difficulty others have accepting her and her relationship and fearful about telling her family.
Mahon portrayed the ‘jack the lad’ veneer of Nick, bringing humour in to lighten difficult moments. The scene with him sat on the ‘naughty step’ made us all laugh out loud. Kundra captured well the uncomfortableness and contained anger felt by Ali, particularly when talking about his children.
To pack everything in to the 90 minutes, the writer Stephanie Martin, ensured not a superfluous word was spoken. The intensity drew you in and engaged the audience throughout. The acrid dialogue, which I suspect reflects what happens in so many homes across Britain, accentuated the fight that Sarah had. To prove that she had found her ‘Alkaline’ through Islam, the place within where she could be content, safe and happy.
Alkaline is an all round thought provoking, relevant and intense piece.