Damion Garnett has written an incisive play about the prejudices and contradictions which divide current UK society. Sticks and Stones takes place in the office of a senior staff member in a large state school. The staff member who is coloured, prosperous and well educated is having a conversation with a long-term friend who works in the school canteen: she is white, poorly educated and financially insecure. They are forced to confront their differences in attitude to modern society and their underlying prejudices about race, class, entitlement and inequality.
The staging is simple in the Tristan Bates Theatre space with a desk and minimal other furniture representing the office and the audience on both sides of the acting area. The dialogue is pacey and immediately engaging. The two actors both give accomplished performances. Eva Fontaine as the coloured school principal gave an assured performance which well demonstrated the conflict she felt having to confront the prejudices of her long-term friend. She was well complemented by Catherine Harvey as the school canteen supervisor, unable to understand the offence she had given, who managed to derive a considerable amount of humour from the dialogue.
Rasheka Christie-Carter’s direction brought the situation alive although there was rather too much unnecessary movement by the characters possibly necessitated by the need for them not to have their backs to part of the audience for long. A more conventional seating pattern with the audience on one side might have prevented this.
This is a very topical and relevant play. Brexit it was not mentioned but it was impossible not to relate the attitudes being displayed to those which unfortunately characterised much of the referendum debate. However, the situation seemed a bit contrived. Was it really believable that two people who had been good friends for so long, including helping bring up each other’s children, would not have been more aware of their underlying worldviews? Also, the pace felt a bit forced with the principal discovering, apparently for the first time, evidence of her friend’s prejudices, by opening an envelope in her presence within the first few minutes of the action. The play was less than hour-long and I felt there would have been plenty of scope to take rather longer to develop the scenario and possibly to give more of the back story.
Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd
Reviewed: 6th March 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★