02 June 2007
Silver Birch House
Leyla Nazli's first play is running at the Arcola till next Saturday and it's an absolute beauty. I'm not going to ape the ladies and gentlemen of the critical persuasion and write about plot and character and all that, I'm not going to use the perennial 'promising' word. And if anyone's tempted to think, oh he's only saying it cos he's mates with the theatre, well stuff 'em. I absolutely loved Silver Birch House, it's got more heart and passion and wisdom than a hundred other first plays put together*.
LN's play is about family, and roots, and the ties that bind unravelling, and the forces that can rip a man's life apart in a day and how he can spend the rest of his life trying to repair the join, and how sometimes he might even nearly succeed. It's about so much. And it has a poetic energy that's rare and vital and to be celebrated. And almost by the by, the playwright wrote it in her second language.
*(Including mine, 1992, it was called Mahler's Unfinished, a sort of sad comedy about the composer in a weird sort of afterlife, did very well in Oxford then had two nights at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone for its London showcase, and was described by no less a personage than Christopher Reid, then head of Faber poetry - his wife was in the play - as 'slight'. My own wife was in the Cockpit audience, though I wasn't to meet her for another five months. When I discovered, as we courted, that she'd seen the piece I was naturally eager to hear what she made of it. 'Was alright, I suppose', or somesuch, was her review.)