Storming!

A short walk away from the BBC Television Centre and Westfield Shopping Centre, is the Playground Theatre. A non-profit, community theatre, supporting local audiences in and around West London. Unlike other theatres, the Playground was once a bus depot, but in 2017 opened to audiences. Establishing itself as one of London's newest off-west end venues.

Throughout 2024 The Playground Theatre are honouring multi-award winning playwright Gail Louw with a five-week season. Presenting three world premieres, alongside the international production of her best-known work. All four shows in the season are based on true events with one thing in common; flawed characters. 

Storming! is no different, based on a true story, it tells the story of Russell (Rusty) Watson’s 1998 capitol storming, resulting in the deaths of two officers. The journey takes the audience on an unexpected rollercoaster ride of twists and turns, beautifully tackling mental illness, justice and the complex relationships between Rusty (Chris Barritt), the women, Annie (Bu Kunene) and Dr David Gordon (Edmund Sage-Green). Storming! tackles a particularly dark moment in American history, one written in books for generations to come. The complexities of mental illness, while exploring the unexpected turns and complications that led to the fatal shootings in 1998. 

The story is so beautifully written, alongside Chris Barritt’s effortless portrayal of Rusty it is simply breath-taking. Questioning the realness of Rusty, taking the audience on a journey to what really happened and how schizophrenia can truly impact a person. A performance that must be seen to be believed. 

As the production begins we are quickly introduced to three characters, Rusty (Chris Barritt), Dr. David Gordon - played by Edmund Sage-Green and the women - played by Bu Kunene. The first part of the play focuses on the relationship between Rusty and court-appointed psychiatrist. The interrogation interview forms a key part of the story, where the audience first meet Rusty and quickly identify that he is evidently facing psychological struggles. Fighting contrasting battles with himself, the women and the harrowing truth of what really happened, Dr. David Gordon trying to gather evidence pushes harder, seeking for the truth, often asking questions or taking paths Rusty simply is unable to go led by his hallucination of the women. The trio beautifully portray a harrowing interrogation setting, an imaginative production, not like anything I have seen before. 

As the play goes on we fast-forward a year and introduced to Annie, Rusty’s psychiatrist, played by Bu Kunene. In this time, from the outset Rusty seems to have improved and things look a lot more positive. However, things are not as they seem and serious questions are asked. Unexpected shocks and a surprise finale leaves the audience on the edge of their seats until the very end. 

Storming! is written by Gail Louw. An award- winning playwright with more than 30 plays performed worldwide, all based on real events, collecting multiple awards along the way, including an award for Artistic Excellence and Best New Play at Brighton Festival. Anthony Shrubsall directs the production, bringing a catalogue of directorial experience to an impressive cast and production team. 

Storming! is on throughout Easter and next week at the Playground Theatre, Latimer Road - West London. A charming 100-seater theatre within easy reach of central London, this is a production not to be missed!

The show was reviewed on Thursday 28th March 2024 at The Playground Theatre where it runs until Saturday 6th April 2024.  Tickets available here: STORMING! | 28 MAR - 6 APR | 7.30 PM Matinee Saturday 2.30 PM - Theatre (theplaygroundtheatre.org.uk)

Review written by Stuart Midwinter

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Photo credit: Helena Hipólito

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