Custody review
Ovalhouse

Words by: Abiola Lawal | Published: Saturday, April 1, 2017 7:17 AM
Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli) Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli)

There is a strong, spiritual, mystical element focusing mainly on the mother and her trying to reconnect with Brian’s spirit through her traditional West African belief in the Orishas.

Custody tells the story of a young black man called Brian whose life is taken from him at the hands of the police and follows his family’s struggle for justice and their battle with grief at his untimely death. Directed by Gbemisola Ikumelo (New Nigerians), Custody tackles a highly sensitive subject that affects many people within the black community.


See listing for Custody


Created by South London performer Urbain Hayo, who also plays Brian’s younger brother in the play, with writer Tom Wainwright (Banksy: the Room in the Elephant) the play is based on the real life experiences of Black British families whose relatives have died in police custody as well as his own experiences with the police during their “routine” stop and searches.


Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli) Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli)

Read interview with Urbain Hayo


This play allows itself to be a performance piece with great use of space, movement, sound repetition, and imagery. We never meet Brian onstage we only know of him as a man through the eyes and words of his mother (Karlina Grace-Paseda), sister (Kiké Brimah), brother (Hayo), and lover (Sacharissa Claxton); and what we learn of him is that he was a positive, successful, inspiring and ambitious young man with his whole life ahead of him. Through the character’s voices the otherwise unheard voices of bereaved families are given a space to be heard and through their memories of Brian we are also allowed to see the victim on a more personal level for once. Brian is not just a faceless black man “with a criminal background and gang relations”, but a son, brother and boyfriend.


Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli) Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli)

There were many parts of this performance that surprised and shocked me to be honest it was funnier than I expected, I guess to lighten the handling of such a heavy topic we needed the humour. There is a strong, spiritual, mystical element focusing mainly on the mother and her trying to reconnect with Brian’s spirit through her traditional West African belief in the Orishas. As a Nigerian I really felt a connection and immediate recognition to this side of Africa as it usually hidden in the face of Christianity and Western Civilisation, for me it was important to show that side of the black experience as it is still relevant and powerful in many lives across Africa and in the diaspora.


I would recommend this play for youth groups and for everyone in communities across the UK to see so we can continue to understand each other and see the humanity in victims of police brutality and not just the headlines.

Custody is uncomfortable, at times cringe inducing, beautiful, painful, hilarious and powerful. All four characters create a dynamic energy on stage and I admired how intense and committed they were in all of their performances, the play is anything but boring. I would recommend this play for youth groups and for everyone in communities across the UK to see so we can continue to understand each other and see the humanity in victims of police brutality and not just the headlines.


Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli) Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli)

Custody is at Ovalhouse until 8 April 2017 / See listing for more information and to book tickets / Get 2-4-1 tickets to see Custody on Fri 31 March, & Sat 1 April 7.45pm / Enter code AFRIDIZIAK when booking online or call the box office on 020 7582 7680




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