Take me to Manhattan

Play: Take Me 2 Manhattan

Theatre: Soho Theatre

Playwright: M.R Quintyne-Kolaru

One of the great things about script-in-hand readings is that you are forced to concentrate purely on the writing and the language.

M.R Quintyne-Kolaru’s script for Take Me 2 Manhattan provides a spirited and enthusiastic reading at Soho Theatre, and shows she’s a talent to watch out for as her work stands up to the scrutiny.

Gripping from the outset and in turn thoughtful and entertaining, the play is sustained by strong dialogue as we are taken deeper into the chaotic world that teenager Ailleen (an understated Simona Zivkovska) is trying to navigate.

With an alcoholic, and at times aggressive mother (played by Cathy McManamon), Ailleen, who is looking forward to her 16th birthday, has been shunted around various family members amid circumstances she has no knowledge, or only hazy memories, of.

Such is the unsettled life with her unpredictable, self-obsessed mother that perhaps one of Ailleen’s most poignant lines is delivered when she is being asked if she recalls an incident from her childhood: “I think I remember. It’s all so confusing.”

Quintyne-Kolaru’s gripping tale about Ailleen’s struggle to make sense of her life and identity reveals some of the good, but mostly the bad and ugly realities of low income, working class, multicultural life in London.

But Quintyne-Kolaru, who is a graduate of the Royal Court Theatre’s Critical Mass Programme, steers away from issues such as gang culture and knife crime that have come to be associated with any drama about young people of colour today.

With much of Ailleen’s life centring on the Manhattan chicken shop, this is a sensitively written play about the world behind closed doors. A world of neglect and abuse where parents fail to do the caring they should. When Aillen’s uncle Silco (an unsettling Keith Eyles) arrives unexpectedly, he carries an air of menace indicating there is worse to come

After being in prison for 10 years, Silco is out of step with the ebb and flow of life in London and the changing reality of what “Englishness” is all about. Despite his comments being borderline racist, he is the one who forces the whole family to confront the truth about the past.

The pretence, games and half truths that swirl around Ailleen puts her in an emotional tailspin. As her 16th birthday descends into terrible hysterics and surprise revelations, we see just how much a young person’s behaviour is the result of the flawed adults closest to them.

Take Me 2 Manhattan was performed at Soho Theatre on 20 November 2012 and is aiming to get a full theatre production in 2013.

This article appeared first on WordsofColour.co.uk