Jez Butterworth’s 1995 play Mojo won numerous awards when it first opened at the Royal Court Theatre, and its revival for the tiny White Bear Theatre in Kennington by One Fell Swoop sees it down size in scale, but not at all in power and emotion.
Set in a 1950s Dean Street club under the shadow of gang culture and a feared overlord, it might be considered a dark play but director Sebastien Blanc believes that Butterworth’s characters are deep down just out of depth kids in a playground, struggling with being the big guy in the gang and being bullied by peers. Their world is anything but glamourous – Baby, Potts, Sid, Silver Johnny, Oscar, Sweets and Skinny are all damaged and disturbed, damaging and disturbing humans living in the shadow of the felt but never seen Ezra.
Scheming, plotting, and paranoia all descend into murder and intrigue, but this violence and disturbance are born from fear, and the fact that perpetrators are simultaneously the victims makes them relatable even whilst we detest their actions.
Blanc’s approach to acting is very much from the Meissner school, and the emotional intensity sparking between the actors is palpable. Max Saunders Singer, who plays Potts and Sid has been nominated for an Off West End Award for his portrayal of the latter, but the whole cast bring visceral menace and deep vulnerability to their characterisation of those humans caught in this world of chilling activity from which they can’t escape.
It’s incredibly fast paced, despite taking place in only one room, due to the frantic amphetamine fuelled paranoia that descends upon the gang, and the tight space of the theatre. Full of dynamic tension, sound tracked by a buoyant fifties jukebox, and a detailed set, the senses are assaulted along with the emotions. Described as a comedy, this is not exactly a laugh out loud couple of hours, but bitter comedy.
One Fell Swoop Productions was founded by Blanc and friends to create and deliver theatre that does not just sat back and enjoyed , but changes lives, perspective, and forces the viewer to ask questions (all of their shows support a charity with particular resonance to the play, and so this time around it is Beat Bullying).
On these grounds, Mojo at the White Bear Theatre is a success.
Director: Sebastien Blanc
Luke Trebilcock (Baby)
Max Saunders Singer: Potts
Oscar Blend: Mickey
Skinny: Max Warrick
Sweets: Jack Heath
Silver Johnny: Ben Hall
Mojo is produced by One Fell Swoop Productions www.1fellswoop.co.uk and runs until the 21st September.