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A CurtainUp London London Review
Lower Ninth

The Lord listens to everybody. — Malcolm
Lower Ninth
Anthony Welsh as E-Z and Ray Fearon as Malcolm (Photo: Ellie Kurttz)
Stranded on a shingle roof on a house in New Orleans in the floods that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are a man and a boy with the body of a drowned friend. Lower Ninth named after the district so ravaged by this hurricane is a simple but moving play about the natural disasters that beset man. In this situation, so close to their own deaths and the deaths of others, these two men will examine the meaning of existence. There is no running away from the arguments here. These men are trapped not just by the floods but by their past.

Ray Fearon is a wonderful actor and as Malcolm his retelling of the Bible stories made me want to go straight to a copy of the Old Testament to find out more about Elijah, whom I remember vaguely was involved with ravens and Ezekiel about whom I remember nothing but whom the younger man, E-Z (Anthony Welsh) is named after. Malcolm will cradle the boy, tell him Bible stories and keep him alive in an extraordinary way. Malcolm (Fearon) and E-Z (Welsh) talk about the relationship Malcolm had with E-Z's now dead mother before abandoning her. Malcolm has a wild past but is now reformed and has found Christianity and Fearon's southern Baptist preacher style delivery is gripping. Malcolm tries to keep the younger boy positive while they wait for the slim chance that a helicopter will spot them and arrange a rescue. Malcolm's revised version of the story of Noah is interesting given their situation.

The men try diversions, ways of passing the time, guessing games and counting the roof shingles. The set shows a tumbled down telegraph pole, and surrounding the wooden roof shingles a black shiny surface which could have been water. There is atmospheric modern percussion music. A dream sequence will bring Lowboy (Richie Campbell) back to life providing insights.

Beau Willimom's writing, in its simplicity, gives a poignant sense of the personal nature of the tragedy that befell the people of New Orleans and their courage against adversity.

The Donmar is taking up a twelve week residency at Trafalgar Studios to showcase the work of their Resident Assistant Directors. In this case Lower Ninth has been directed by Charlotte Westenra.

For Elyse Sommer's review of this play in New York go here

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Lower Ninth
Written by Beau Willimon
Directed by Charlotte Westenra

Starring: Ray Fearon, Anthony Welsh
With: Richie Campbell
Design: Ben Stones
Lighting: Hartley TA Kemp
Sound: Carolyn Dowling
Music: Abram Wilson
Running time: 70 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0870 060 6632
Booking to 23rd October 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 5th October 2010 performance at Trafalgar Studios Two, Whitehall, London SW1A 2D (Tube: Charing Cross)

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