Perhaps best described as a piece of performance art rather than simply a play, Brassic FM celebrates working-class culture through a range of stories – an immigrant moving to the UK from Pakistan, an undocumented worker, among others – and challenges the narrative spread by institutions both past and present. Ultimately, it celebrates the value of community, of coming together as family and embracing diversity of experience and culture.
This work is a product of collaboration, openness, and fun. Creators Stef O'Driscoll and Zia Ahmed have not only made the importance of community a subject of their work, but it certainly feels as if this principle has been central to the creative process. Zia Ahmed's writing has moments of exquisite beauty and poignancy; “England doesn't sound like a place where love thrives” is an emotional gut-punch that stays with you long after you leave the theatre.
In fact, it's fair to say that absolutely no punches are pulled here, and the anger at injustice is palpable, occasionally uncomfortable (arguably a necessity of powerful art), but with real humanity at its heart.
The audience is hurled from tone-setting chaos to poignant snippets of personal stories, interwoven with sketches; once it becomes clear that we are in for a wild ride, the frantic pace of this piece effectively underpins both the frustration and joy presented to us throughout. The overall flow needs refining – some scene transitions feel a little too laboured or unnecessarily cringey, and while the rapid jumps from scene to scene are largely effective, some opportunities to reflect are lost.
All three performers work their socks off for the entire production – they switch between a plethora of roles (notably Zainab Hasan fully commits to and embodies an entire cast of distinct and fun characters with great talent) and move through a range of genres with impressive slickness. Jonny Britcher masterfully handles a technically challenging script while maintaining the strongest charisma and sincerity. We hang on his every word and are charmed by his command of the stage throughout.
As stand-out as Britcher's performance is Laura Howard's lighting design – Howard offers a masterclass in creating tension, chaos, joy, fear, and so much more through their expertly precise and creative use of the lights. They have understood every single emotional beat of this piece and not once does the lighting not powerfully serve to enhance it.
Of course, a performance centred on a radio station has sound at its heart, and while more could be done to further entrench it into the waves and core of this production, Kwake Bass' composition and musical direction and Dominic Kennedy's sound design is fun, interesting, and engaging.
This production is bold, provocative, and potent. With some more work to do, it deserves an exciting future. If you are looking for a night of theatre that will challenge, celebrate, and inspire, Brassic FM is the place to be!
It runs at Gate Theatre until 30 September.
Review: Penny Lane Photo: Craig Sugden