Thugz N Tearz

Fri 5th – Mon 29th August 2011


Rowan Evans

at 11:41 on 20th Aug 2011



Sure, I’m a little apprehensive, and the title’s double Zs are already worrying me even before I’ve wandered to at least three wrong venues named ‘Zoo’. A girl in blue trackies, looking more anxious than me, fidgets inches from the front row of a tiny but under-filled auditorium. Then the door is sealed, lights up and the waving of a loaded gun starts to do the same thing to my gut as Tarantino. We tumble in.

The plot suspends the lives of two girls who fail to murder the conflicted muslim Kaiza, and a brilliantly ridiculous white double act Danny and Reece. All orbit the dreadlock mountain Blacker (Joseph Hutton), drugs trade overlord and professional badman. Races collide and friendships turn with a single word as a constant level of rage is tapped between protagonists. Everyone wants dominion and Kaiza and Elisha (Wahab Sheikh and Zoë Nicole), who think they want out, are told you either play the game or get killed. The writing is muscular and creates powerful dynamics between the several sets of partners: when Siobhan (Ese Ighorae) confronts Blacker and his sidekick Damian (Nathan Clarke), you can practically see a clot of energy ripple back and forth across the narrow stage.

Performances from all the cast are strong. Siobhan’s descent into murderous mania is terrifying, gangling cokehead Reece (Adam Bacon) is hilarious and Clarke’s preening, heel-snapping Damian is authentic. With a soundtrack of shuddered 2-Step and seamless hoodied changeovers in the blackouts, production is slick and professional.

While the play’s themes might not feel groundbreaking - a harsh snapshot of money-driven gang culture - Sheikh’s keen ear does more with dialogue than restating the obvious. Just hearing the thick abrasion of several distinct idioms (with flawless delivery) is captivating and, like Pinter, Sheikh exploits the unnerving fault-line between laughter and shock. This is a play of flaunting: reputation, symbolic status, loyalty, family. True, the message of the plot is pessimistic, given the apparent simplicty of the pacific Baba’s (Moncef Mansur’s) philosophical solution. Yet while his consolations to Kaiza go on longer than perhaps is necessary, the message of jihād al-akbar - the greater, inner struggle against personal demons - fits with an underlying religiosity throughout the play. It’s not only Kaiza that genuinely worries, ‘what am I going to say to God?’. A fuller audience will strengthen the laughs and credit the actors of a play bristling with momentum. ‘Thugz n Tearz’ is a revelation.


Annabel James

at 12:16 on 20th Aug 2011



Raw Perception Productions’ action-packed and densely plotted representation of an East London drug empire is a thrilling show. We see a host of characters from different levels of the power structure fight it out to get themselves even a rung higher on the ladder, and ultimately watch the words of protagonist Kaiza fulfilled: ‘you can’t fuck the system, it’s the system that fucks you.’

Kaiza is played by the writer Wahab Sheikh, whose muscular script endows every character with full-blooded passions and motivations which we see drawn into conflict amongst a web of further societal factors. The religious devotion of Kaiza and his mentor Baba operates amidst a world in which drugs, guns and sex operate as tokens of exchange just as much as the wads of money Kaiza keeps rolled up under his bullet proof vest. Danny and his cocaine-addicted accomplice Reece hold their boss, Blacker, in full racist contempt but still carry out killings for him because, as Danny says, ‘the nignogs pay better’. Reece himself provides excellent comic relief and uses brilliant physical expression as he swings from drug-addled confusion to moments of hilarious lucidity, as when he points out to Danny that 'Arabs' and ‘Pakis’ are actually 'not the same thing'.

The only fault of the production seemed to be Kaiza’s motivation for reform, presented as a single scene in which Baba reminds him of the importance of his religion. It seemed a slightly easy way out in terms of the scriptwriting, although the consequences of Kaiza’s quitting the system played out with admirable complexity as he was forced to confront his best friend Ozzi, played menacingly by Ako Ali, with the fact that they can no longer work together. Some of the actors’ accents occasionally slipped from their East End vowels and lots of t’s were left in that should have been dropped, but this was barely noticeable as I enjoyed the magnificent array of language in the script. Bits of cockney rhyming slang, patois and Arabic fuelled what was already a rich script and enhanced the way we saw Kaiza interact with characters from these different communities, all drawn together through a desire to perpetuate power through crime.

Under Ray Ashbourne’s direction, scene changes and blocking were sharp and the intimacy of the performance space meant we were confronted with the often explosive encounters between the characters head on. The murders and double-dealing multiply as the play goes on up to a thrilling conclusion reminiscent of a Jacobean resolution scene. ‘Thugs N Tearz’ is a brilliantly written, well executed statement about the extremity of London gang culture which deserves to be heard.



Jo Bacon; 20th Aug 2011; 18:39:32

Jo Bacon; 20th Aug 2011; 18:41:28

Really enjoyed this play. So well acted the hour performance seemed more like 10 minutes. Please go and see it. Have tried to give it five stars but seem to have mucked it up and only one has come out.

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