BWW Reviews: CIRCLES, Birmingham Rep, May 15 2014
Circles is the new play written by Rachel De-lahay; her third piece of writing following massive success with The Westbridge and Routes. Circles has two interweaving stories within it; two teenagers striking up an unlikely friendship on the number 11 bus and a mother watching over her daughter's attempts to leave a violent relationship. The story is set with a Birmingham backdrop so many locals in the audience can have an added relation to the plot.
The production is only just over an hour in length but the material certainly packs a punch within this short time. Circles not only refers to the circular route of the number 11 bus but also the cycles of violence and the difficulties in breaking the rotation. Tessa Walker's direction is very good - I particularly like the use of the four strong company during scene transitions, making it apparent that the two stories link. The set design by Bob Bailey is simple but well suited - a long bus shelter with carpet flooring across the entire stage for the interior scenes. Simon Bond's lighting confronts challenges such as catching performers inside the shelter brilliantly along with the strength of reflections that need to be contended with. The bus shelter acts as a safe haven amongst whatever else is occurring at the time so is a powerful metaphor.
Toyin Kinch (Malachi) and Danusia Samal (Demi) play the teenagers who keep meeting on the bus. Kinch is great in the comedic role and provides some light relief amongst the heavy themes. Samal gives a fairly straight performance all the way through until the final scene where the stories come together - that's when we see her emotion and strength shine through. Sarah Manners (Angela) and Janice McKenzie (Phyllis) are both fantastic as the daughter and mother respectively. Their relationship has clearly been closely examined and there is evidently a lot of coldness between them which doesn't unfold until later in the performance. The play is also a classic instance of how children can turn into their parents without even realising. Their performances are incredibly strong.
Circles runs at the Birmingham Rep Theatre until 24 May 2014.