Wednesday, 23 March 2016

FOUR STAR REVIEW Luce at the Southwark Playhouse

WHAT would you do if you were a teacher and one of your students handed in a paper in which he appeared to support right wing extremism and terrorist organisations?
Well, that is the dilemma facing one such teacher in JC Lee's play Luce, a production of which is now on at the Southwark Playhouse.
Directed by Simon Dormandy, himself once a teacher, it centres on Luce, a 17-year-old Grade A student who has ambition thrust upon him by his teacher Harriet and his adoptive parents Amy and Peter.
Set in America the story starts with a meeting between Harriet and Amy in which Harriet tells Amy about a paper Luce has written and what a subsequent opening of his locker has found - illegal fireworks that could maim or kill someone.
Harriet, Amy and Peter are then faced with a dilemma - should they confront Luce about the explosives and their concerns over the paper or keep quiet.
But the question that hangs over the piece throughout is whether or not Luce is rebelling against his parents and teachers and just writing the paper to be noticed. Or does he really believe the propaganda and does he intend to use the explosives that were found in his locker.
The narrative twists and turns and even when his friend Stephanie tells Amy about a party in which she gets drunk and is passed around the boys - including Luce - like a piece of meat, it is still uncertain whether he is the nice boy his parents and teachers believe him to be. And it is not until the end when things become clearer.
It is a thrilling and totally gripping production and staged in the Newington Causeway theatre's Little space at times the atmosphere is uncomfortable, claustrophobic and like a pressure cooker about to explode.
It is superbly acted by the five-strong cast, particularly Mel Giedroyc as Amy, a woman who struggles to believe her son is capable of anything bad and Elizabeth Tan who gives an emotionally charged performance as Stephanie, which is by the end heartbreakingly sad.
But the stars are definitely JC Lee who with his writing and Martins Imhangbe as Luce, keep us guessing right to the end.

Luce is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until Saturday, April 2. Tickets cost £20. Visit or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

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