Duwayne by Gail Louw, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, and The Old Market, Brighton
This intriguing new play by Brighton-based playwright, Gail Louw, produced by New Vic Productions in association with Eastbourne Theatres, had its premiere at the Devonshire Park Theatre on May 23.
The title is that of Duwanye Brooks, a young black man who was with Stephen Lawrence when the teenager was fatally stabbed in South London in 1993.
It was a murder that has rarely been out of the headlines and has become a ‘cause celebre’.
In 2003, Duwayne published a book, ‘Steve and I: my friendship with Stephen Lawrence and the search for justice’. It is on this which Louw has based her play.
So, is it another docu-drama, an addition to the ‘Lawrence industry’, which most recently has seen Lawrence’s mother given a life peerage? Fortunately the answer is ‘no’.
Louw has an accurate ear for dialogue and Tony Milner’s direction is sensitive on a set depicting a scruffy suburban road, complete with dustbin lids, ‘do not cross’ tapes, discarded traffic cones, and crowd barriers, which acts as murder scene, prison cell, riot-inciting platform and courtroom.
Adrian Decosta as Duwayne displays astonishing understanding of his character, his energy, determination and, above all, the ongoing nightmare that he never did enough to help his friend.
The entire Met Police force is depicted by David Ajao as a black officer, sometimes friend, more often foe, and Andy De Marquez as a white officer, on the scene of the crime at the beginning and thereafter as one of many determined to discredit Duwayne.
Paul Moriarty is Police Commissioner Brian Paddick, now a Liberal Democrat peer, the first openly gay senior policeman and supporter of Duwayne in his later political ambitions.
Like the dilemma in Louw’s acclaimed ‘Blonde Poison’, this play exposes the timeless question of what anyone might have done in similar circumstances to Duwayne.
By uncompromisingly dramatising a real-life story, it also asks if there is any right or wrong left in a world where the boundaries of truth have become ever more blurred.
By Roger Paine