"Kings" by Daniel Hoffmann-Gill.
I love plays which are different and evoke emotions and this is one play that ticks both boxes. Written by Daniel Hoffmann-Gill and based on personal experiences from working in a men's refuge, This is a gritty and powerful piece of drama which should be seen by as many people as possible. The wonderfully emotive direction courtesy of Fiona Buffini.
The play itself starts with Wayne, played by Joe Doherty, having a fit on the floor, which sets the reality of the play going. He is due to move out of the shelter to a place of his own, but he's nervous about being on his own and away from the family he knows at the shelter. He's only young and this is a big step for him.
Big Dave, played by Tim Baggaley, is a one-armed ex-soldier who lost his arm in The Falklands. He lost his son and since then has tried to commit suicide several times. He even tries to get the local "bike" to try and help him finish himself off, but not in the way she had envisaged; terrified she flees from the hostel. He is angry and has a coarse line in vocabulary, and keeps getting told off by Barry (Chris Lund) for swearing. Also probably one of the best entrances into a play I've seen of late and some brilliant comedy surrounding replacements for Big Dave's arm.
There's a lot of swearing, and I mean proper swearing, but that is what makes this play so raw and real.
Barry has been told by his mum that he shouldn't visit the "island" again and not to mix with the "freaks" at the hostel, but he loves the company of the others and being an important cog in the system that they have going on.
Kirky (Dominic Grove) is the character that drew the most emotion from me. He is the one who takes care of the others, making sure that they are all OK. Sarah (Sophie Ellerby), who is the case worker at the refuge, drops hints that Kirky would be OK to move out of the hostel. He looks after every one else so can surely look after himself, but Kirky feels that the others need him.
There is a very emotional outburst in the second half of the play with Kirky, which really plays with your emotions, and is quite frightening and shocking. A harrowing portrayal by Dominic of a troubled character who isn't quite the "rock" he lets people think he is.
And then there's Elvis, played by veteran actor James Warrior. He thinks he is Elvis and sings at local clubs and bars for pocket money and the odd stuffed animal; Elvis the character that is, not James the actor. He also does the warm up for the show which gets you into the play as you're taking your seat.
It's brilliant to see actors who have disabilities playing characters who have disabilities. You can't get more realism that that, and immediately lends more empathy to the characters, not that these very strong characters would readily welcome empathy because that's the way they are.
So, Wayne is leaving the home and the rest want to give him a send off that he won't forget, so they all record a bit of film to show what he means to them, You can feel the love all the characters have for the lad, and they're not afraid to show that love which again is a brilliant touch. A group of men of all ages and all have different disabilities not afraid to express their love for each other. Sounds soppy but it's not, it's a brilliant show of support and understanding of each other's needs.
There's also quite an emotive discussion about how hospital radio had an effect on two of the characters, which, for me was lovely. This led to another emotive scene when one by one they all joined in to an accapella version of REM's "Losing My Religion"
Among the emotion and passion there is also a lot of comedy involving dinosaurs and strange headgear, which you'll need to go and see to find out exactly what I mean!
A simple set, all revolving around the communal area of the hostel with the simple but effective sound and light design by Martin Curtis. It was ideal for the intimate performing space of The Neville Studios and while I'd love for loads of people to see the play, it wouldn't work as well in a bigger space.
"Kings" is a very special piece of theatre. Special because it will evoke emotions from you, I guarantee, Even if you don't quite understand what is supposed to be happening in act one, this is a grower and in act two it all comes together.
"Kings" is on at the Neville Studios at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 30 April 2016.