Custody – review
By Tom Wainwright and Urban Wolf
Ovalhouse Theatre

Words by: Christina McDougall | Published: Monday, June 10, 2019 9:06 AM
Ariyon Bakare and Janet Suzman in Dream of The Dog Custody (courtesy Lidia Crisafulli)


I loved the movement and use of spoken word throughout the play.

Custody dares to shine a light and expose the horrific truth around police brutality within the black community in the UK.


It highlights institutional racism and teaches us that the system is still full of injustice and hate is still a feeling many carry.


Martin Luther King Jr said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.


This play shows we are still a long way from that dream.


Set in London, a small family unit is destroyed when they receive the news that their son, brother and lover has been killed by the police.


Arrested for being a black man, beaten like a stray dog and left for dead like a wild fox in the middle of the road, yet he did nothing wrong.


Brian was a successful, ambitious young man, he stayed on a straight path and tried to do what was right but one fateful night he was stopped and searched by the police, he was stripped, he was humiliated, he was beaten and chocked and forced into a cell…


Police Officers watched him fall to the ground and die and the question Custody asks is Why did this happen? Was it because he was black?


We never get to watch the gruesome incident nor see the character Brian, but this play opens a door and allows us to witness the aftermath of the injustice.


A strong family unit being pulled apart as they fight for answers as to why this young man’s soul was snatched too soon.


There are bad apples in all areas of society and the police force is not exempt; police brutality is nothing new, I know men who have suffered hard blows, been shoved against the wall, stripped down to their socks and arrested with no explanation other than their skin colour. A skin colour so rich, roots that go back to royalty, and a strength that can’t be imitated clearly overwhelms and intimidates many people to this day.


a necessary piece that deserves to be seen by a wider audience What happens when someone you love is murdered by the people we believe are in place to protect us?

Studies show that ‘London’s black population at the last census was 1,088,447. In 2017–18 the Met used force 22,989 times against black people this is an equivalent of one incident for every 50; this is higher than in other police forces covering large urban areas such as Greater Manchester and Merseyside.- According to the data, a black person in London is four times more likely than a white person to have force used against them by a Met Police officer, as a proportion of the population.’ — BBC.co.uk


Ariyon Bakare and Janet Suzman in Dream of The Dog

I appreciate the importance of this play and the questions it asks about the police force.


The family wants justice, they need answers and Custody highlights their frustration when no one can tell them why this happened.


I loved the movement and use of spoken word throughout the play. The characters remained true and at times tugged deep on my soul. I found the play very insightful and enjoyed how the actors embodied different characters.


Although at times the play slightly felt repetitive and I struggled with some of the characters diction, I believe it is a necessary piece that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.


Black lives will forever matter and Custody shines a light on areas which need to be exposed, talked about and addressed so maybe that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream can become a reality and black men will be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin.


CAST: Urbain Hayo (Brother) | Muna Otaru (Mother) | Ewa Dina (Sister) | Rochelle James (Lover)



NEED TO KNOW: Custody is at Ovalhouse Theatre until 22 June 2019 | see listing | book tickets (Get £10 tickets for all performances until 15 June, using WOLF10 | #whoisbrian





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