Theatre Review - Brassic FM

There's a terrific vibe at the Gate Theatre, based at Theatro Technis, with its welcoming staff, and outdoor space. They excel at producing theatre with political clout.

Their latest show, co-created by poet Zia Ahmed and director Stef O’Driscoll, features a pirate radio station with a loyal south London following.

Described as “a love letter to working-class culture and music”, Brassic FM crackles with energy as various characters explore how pirate radio has, over the decades, helped unite communities through music, chat and “shout outs.”

The play begins with the culture of raving in the 1990s – in particular the 1992 Castlemorton Common festival, an illicit free rave – which led to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This effectively made it illegal to hold outdoor parties playing music “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.

Ahmed jumps between time and subjects. We are offered snapshots from unemployed and underpaid listeners, while Amir poignantly describes his precarious life as an undocumented asylum seeker.

Another affecting segment involves Amina, who discovers the passionate tape recordings her mother, a young Pakistani woman newly arrived in Britain, sent to the lover she left behind. The tapes also reveal the racism she endured. However, the story peters out. Several other strands feel unresolved or insubstantial.

Between them, the three-strong cast, Jonny Britcher, Zakiyyah Deen and Zainab Hasan create a vivid sense of community. We learn about the attempts to commercialise and police pirate radio, how it has galvanised individuals to fight against injustice and how our right to protest is gradually being eroded.

Ultimately, though, there are too many competing strands in this two-hour + show which makes it sometimes difficult to follow. It’s a play with heart but needs tightening to truly soar.

Originally published by Camden New Journal 

Until September 30