‘Custody’ is an outstanding portrayal of a family’s struggle for justice after a young black man dies in police custody. It’s an uncomfortable truth but the kind of play everyone should see.

The acting was phenomenal – each character bringing passion, love, energy and heart to the stage for the entire performance.

We never meet Brian but we hear all about him through his closest family - his mother (Muna Otaru); his sister (Ewa Dina); his brother (Urbain Hayo) and his fiancé (Rochelle James).

The play takes you through the family’s heartbreak and their fight to uncover the truth and as the story develops we learn that Brian was an innocent victim of police brutality and his only crime was being black.  

There are obvious people you think of when you see this play, like the Lawrence family and the Duggan family, and although the circumstances are different the parallels are still there. Then there’s the location, the Ovalhouse, just a short walk from Stockwell tube station where Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police after being mistaken for a terrorist. All victims, all people who should be living their lives today.

But this isn’t a tale of police-bashing, this is an insight into what the aftermath is like for a black family – their pain, their anguish and their relentlessness to get to the truth to clear their loved one’s name so they can rebuild.

The performance itself is 70 minutes with no interval but boy is it packed with everything you want from a play. You don’t miss the break because you don’t want it to end, it pulls you in right from the moment you take your seat.

Somehow through the pain, the emotion and the distress there’s even some humour – brought out by everyday family conversations – it’s done so naturally and it’s so realistic that you can’t help but laugh.

It also hints at that behind the scenes conversation all black parents are forced to have with their children about what to do if they get arrested, how to behave and how to stay alive.

‘Custody’ is everything it needs to be, honest, frank, compelling, gritty, current and real.

It’s running until 22nd June and really is a must-see show.


Review: Sunita Jaswal