TBB Reviews ‘Pale Imitations’ by New Writer Keisha Watson & Catches Up With One of its Stars

pale_imitationsPale Imitations was on for one night at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, with a cast of Simone McIntyre who played Indiana, Jerome Wise who played Ramone and lastly Alexander Kiffin who played Carl. In conjunction with the AMLD theatre company, directed by Olorunfemi Fagunwa and written by up and coming black British playwright Keshia Watson.

This is a play that discusses the many expressions that come from a person’s most powerful emotion, love. It separates the feeling into two categories for example, the feeling you get listening to music or looking at a painting, and of course the most effective, how someone else can make you feel. Within that, there was the negative side of it all, heartbreak, mistrust, confusion and anger. Art and music were the also the main themes of this production as they are used as tools to influence the characters stories.

The genre of music was jazz; I loved this in particular, as I’m a massive fan of jazz music. A live band (named the “Pale Imitations” band) featured throughout the show and would present a stimulating piece of music during each scene change, which really went with the mood of the setting.
The songs were from an artist who was also the musical director/ composer for the play, Nazarene Mighty; she opened the show with a beautiful, sweet melody named after the play’s title.

The story is set in modern day, east London, two jack-the-lad type best friends, Ramone and Carl are out and about enjoying the cheeky delights men get up to in a stag night. Ramone then comes clean about his feelings towards his wedding and desires to reunite with his ex girlfriend Indiana. Hesitant and unsure of his friend’s decision, Carl wants to steer him away from that crazy thinking and tries to persuade him to stay. But 100% sure this is a good idea, Ramone drunkenly wanders off into the night to search for the real love of his life after not seeing her for 10 years!

Once he stumbles upon her home, which was an apartment/gallery, Ramone begs Indiana to let him in and talk to her. One last chance to get everything off his chest and also to confirm whether getting married to another woman is the right thing to do. Now the seductive and very creatively intelligent Indiana acts as if this is an inconvenience, but eventually she hears what he has to say, and as they start to unravel buried feelings you see how she uses her charm to get some answers and mock him for not being with her in the first place.

There was a great deal of tension during these scenes, the actors calculated their time well, and the build up towards something actually happening had the audience on their toes! Ramone and Indiana’s situation eventually became clear, they still loved each other, however the plot thickens once best friend Carl is involved, for he and Indiana also had unfinished business.

Simone McIntyre & Jerome Wise

Simone McIntyre & Jerome Wise

Rosemary Branch is one of London’s most famous “above the pub” theatres, it’s small, so always best to utilise all the space. Along with props used to create the set, and the jazz band stationed at the back, there were paintings on the wall by various famous black artists, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fabrice Monterio. I thought this was a nice touch and added to the play’s abstract side.

After the show, I had the pleasure of speaking with Alexander Kiffin who played “Carl” to get a quick insight of how things went behind the scenes. I asked him how he found the experience of working on this production…

“The experience was pretty cool we learnt a lot about jazz and jazz artists, I do like that genre of music but I wouldn’t say I’m a avid jazz fan, so I had to do a lot of research about it. I learnt of its connections to New Orleans and how it spread throughout the U.S and the rest of the world.

“There were a lot of exercises where we had to work on how to “flow” together instead of doing it a certain way because every piece is different. It was a pretty tuff experience, I’m not a poet and I was using a different technique from what I’m used to; and rehearsals were really full on.

“Performing in Edinburgh for two weeks really helped with the development side of things, and it was a different audience so it was nice to see a variation of reactions. We spoke to people about what their interpretation was and how they felt about the play, which was fun!”

This is a great show for those who are looking for more “after dark” theatre and overall I thought Pale Imitations was brilliant, for it’s originality, interesting combination of jazz music, poetic script and playfulness with emotions.

AMLD Theatre Company will be touring the play later in the year. For more info visit the website: www.amldtheatrecompany.com

Review by Eysis Clacken for The British Blacklist