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A CurtainUp London Review
Luce (Martins Imhangbe) is a teenage orphan adopted into a white American family. He is called Luce because his real name is a tongue twister. He is brilliant in every way: at sports and in his classes, and is the poster child for a successful young man rescued from a cruel start in an African war zone. His adoptive parents Amy (Mel Giedroyc) and Peter (Nigel Whitmey) seem out of their depth when his teacher Harriet (Natasha Gordon) calls Amy in to see her. Harriet has read an essay, she set and Luce wrote, about an historical figure of choice and Luce has written about someone in the 1970s who was involved with terrorism. Harriet is concerned enough to secretly search the student's locker and finds something explosive. Amy uses the internet to find out about Luce by requesting his Facebook friends to link with her and she meets up with the very pretty Stephanie (Elizabeth Tan).
This play is full of ambiguity and unanswered questions. Much of it is about the teacher's responsibility to inform or keep secret behaviour, which may or not be suspicious. There are long agonized discussions between Peter and Amy about what to do. Amy fiercely defends Luce and is happy to accept his explanation for events. However Stephanie brings a big question mark to the situation and it seems that Harriet has not acted on a safeguarding issue Stephanie has told her about, albeit at Stephanie's request not to. Despite being a bit ditsy and an avid internet researcher, Amy starts to realize how little she knows her son.
There is an outstanding performance from Martins Imhangbe as the enigmatic Luce. He resents being cast as the success story in view of his traumatic early years; he hates himself and others being stereotyped. He gives a speech about civil rights and a student's right to privacy when selected for that honour. Mel Giedroyc has a difficult role as the loyal mother. Is she right or is she in denial? What if your own parents don't believe you?
Simon Dormandy directs with his cast sitting on the sidelines listening to the scenes they do not figure in. The performances are believable and this play will keep you puzzling. I found myself looking up bomb making equipment to verify a question raised in the last scene and I am none the wiser! I hope my internet isn't being monitored.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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