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Lyric Hammersmith theatre re-opens with a triple delight

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Image captionImage 1: Ayesha Antoine in Out West at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre. PICTURE: HELEN MAYBANKS

Theatre lovers rejoice! The Lyric Hammersmith has re-opened with a powerful trio of short plays from three of the UK’s leading playwrights in their new Out West triple bill.

Rooted in west London, the plays explore race, identity and our sense of place and purpose, giving a strong voice to the challenges of the moment in the series of compelling solo performances. Poignant, witty, and heart-wrenching at times, Out West is a reminder of the insight and emotional connection that live theatre can deliver.

The Lyric’s artistic director Rachel O’Riordan and co-director Diane Page successfully manage to create a production that tackles some of the most difficult questions of our time by focusing on the stripped-back power of storytelling.

With set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Jessica Hung Han Yun and composition and sound design by Simon Slater, Out West will run at the Lyric until 24 July.

The show is operating with socially-distanced seating for the whole run, with drinks available to pre-order for collection on arrival. The show will also be filmed for audiences to purchase a ticket to watch at home via online streaming from 12 to 17 July.

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Image caption: Image 2: Esh Alladi in Out West at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre. PICTURE: HELEN MAYBANKS

Sharp and profound

In the opening play, The Overseas Student, writer Tanika Gupta rejoins the Lyric’s artistic director Rachel O’Riordan for another captivating run after the pair’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in 2019.

Starring Esh Alladi, the story follows an 18-year-old Mohandas Gandhi, as he sets sail from India to study law in London in 1888.

Far from home, his wife and his family, we see him navigate a time of uncertainty, growth and opportunity, as he is torn between his desire to enjoy the world London offers him, and his struggles with temptation.

Imperialism, racial discrimination and the feeling of being othered are all explored in Gupta’s sharp and profound play.

Revealing a different Gandhi from the anti-colonial, civil rights activist later given the honorific Mahatma after his work to inspire freedom and humanity worldwide, The Overseas Student is an insight into the teenage years of a man who became one of the most significant figures in history.

Memories and privilege

In the second of the Out West triple bill, Blue Water and Cold and Fresh tells the heartfelt tale of one man’s journey across London in the wake of city lockdown living and Black Lives Matter protests as he confronts personal memories alongside a sense of his own white privilege.

Actor Tom Mothersdale is engaging as he deftly explores difficult issues including Jack’s father’s drinking, his mixed-race marriage and the birth of his son.

Olivier and Tony Award-winning writer Simon Stephens does not shy away from exploring the pain and hurt of family prejudice, or its creeping effects throughout generations, in this play created with collaborator Emmanuella Cole.

As Jack pounds the pavement to revisit the five Hammersmith homes where his father lived through his life, there is no escaping his tough emotional trial.

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Image caption: Image 3: Tom Mothersdale in Out West at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre. PICTURE: HELEN MAYBANKS

Isolation and struggle

Meanwhile, the final play Go, Girl brings the audience to within a stone’s throw of the Lyric itself as the story of Westfield security guard and mum Donna celebrates Black women, everyday heroism and female resilience.

Bafta-nominated writer Roy Williams, whose play Death of England: Delroy reopened the National Theatre last year, takes the audience from moments of laugh-out-loud lightness to disturbing snapshots of violence and crime in this sharply-observed piece.

Starring Ayesha Antoine, the play captures its lead character’s isolation and struggle as she questions how her life has taken her from once being a schoolgirl chosen to sing for the First Lady Michelle Obama, to patrolling the grounds of Westfield shopping centre.

Antoine poignantly portrays the hope and excitement Donna once felt, and how it has dissipated as the years and everyday challenges took over.

Yet when Donna and her teenage daughter find themselves faced with a desperate situation that tests their bravery to the max, she comes to realise how stepping up for the most vulnerable can make for truly remarkable actions.

For times, tickets or details for the live production or online show visit the Lyric Hammersmith website.

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