Family reunion, a recipe for disaster

Family reunion, a recipe for disaster

Robert Tanitch reviews Perseverance Drive at Bush Theatre, London W12

There is much to entertain in Robin Soan’s new play. A black Pentecostal family gathers for a funeral in Barbados and then four years later they gather for a funeral in Leytonstone. They only meet when there is a crisis and every family reunion is a recipe for disaster. Their appalling Behaviour at the funeral is richly comic.

What divides and fractures them is their religion. Their faith is blind and flawed. It locks God in and it locks God out. The pastor (Leo Wringer) and his wife had founded their own church because when they came to England the local Anglican churches made it very clear that the white congregation did not want to share the Communion with black folk.

The pastor’s eldest son (Derek Ezenagu) treats his wife (Frances Ashman) as a secretary, cook, housekeeper and assistant and never as a wife.  His youngest son (Kolade Agboke) is married to a divorced woman (Akiya Henry). Rejected by the family, they have formed their own rival roving ministry.

A local bishop (Ray Shell) only aggravates matters. Meanwhile, his son (Lloyd Everitt) has more passion for architecture and another man’s wife than he has for the Church.

Basic CMYKOnly when the pastor is dying, does he realize that the son (Clint Dyer) he had rejected, because he was gay, is the only one who really cares for him. The non-Christian son is more Christian than the Christians.

Sectarian rivalry, narrow-mindeness, bigotry, hypocrisy, sex and the washing of dirty laundry in public all make for enjoyable drama. There’s a good cast and some fine gospel singing.  I hope Soan’s play gets the plural audience Madani Younis, artistic director of the Bush Theatre, wants and deserves.

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