Vivienne Franzmann's Mogadishu
¹ shared the Bruntwood playwrighting prize with Winterlong
which I saw a couple of weeks ago; this is, for me, by far the stronger play. Franzmann used to teach at a London comprehensive school and this is where the play is set, as idealistic white teacher Amanda (Julia Ford - Bernie's mum from the first series of Being Human
) tries to intervene in a playground fight and is pushed by black bully Jason (Malachi Kirby.) Knowing that expulsion for a black student would all-but-guarantee his life turning out badly Amanda hesitates to report him, giving Jason time to convince all the other kids to back him up in a lie: That it was Amanda who hit him first, and racially abused him. Matthew Dunster's production has been reconfigured from originally being in-the-round at Manchester where it debuted in January, and Tom Scutt's set is a playground whose fence makes it look like a circular cage, which at times seems to be closing in on Amanda.
Looking at a lot of complex issues Franzmann doesn't offer any easy solutions, with even the most culpable characters being given moments of sympathy. She's also captured the kids' speech patterns very well and used them to bring humour into the show. It's not perfect - there's a few too many comedy sidekicks for Jason meaning a couple don't get much character development; and Amanda's determination to think the best of her students starts to look more like a complete lack of self-preservation instincts. But for a first play it's very assured and entertaining. The cast is strong all round but after her impressive debut in Spur of the Moment
last year, Shannon Tarbet once again snatches the acting honours as Amanda's daughter, caught in the middle of what becomes a bigger and bigger shitstorm.Mogadishu
by Vivienne Franzmann is booking until the 2nd of April at the Lyric Hammersmith.