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Review: Misfits

Review: Misfits

Review: Misfits cover photo on Stagedoor
Fiza (Mona Goodwin) is in her late thirties, has a failed marriage behind her and has been forced to take refugee back in her her Essex childhood bedroom.

Tag (Thomas Coombes) was the only one from his Romford teenage friendship group who got away, but he is still haunted by the ghosts he left behind.

For too long Southend based Daisy (Gemma Salter) has been “dancing down a dead-end street” but now she’s heavily pregnant and about to go into labour and as she does so she thinks about her mum, who left London for Essex. Is history is repeating itself? Eunice (Anne Odeke), is an Essex schoolgirl researching notable black people in the county. She can only find references to the black death, black magic and a pub called the black rabbit, but then she comes across the story of Joanna who in 1908 entered a Southend beauty pageant.

If you’ve swallowed whole all those stereotypes about Essex and its inhabitants, then Misfits will dispel them. Due to open at the Queens in Hornchurch last week, but now being live streamed because of the lockdown, these quartet of vignettes curl and dance around each other like smoke and sparks from a smouldering bonfire. They combine to offer a layered and complex portrait of four very different people marked by the county in different ways. They are written by four distinctively different writers.

Thomas Coombes, Anne Odeke, Mona Goodwin and Gemma Salter in Misifts. Photos by Zbigniew Kotkiewicz.

The cleverness of Misfits is the way that directors Douglas Rintoul and Emma Baggott successfully weave four disparate stories or monologues into a theatrical tapestry. They cut across each other, slip slide into each other, bounce back and forth against one another. Music is often the gateway to memory. As Fiza unpacks her boxes the soundtrack of her teenage years emerges from the boxes; in a Manchester pub a song on the jukebox takes Tag back to the last night before leaving, cruising down the A127. Daisy recalls singing with her mum, who was in a 70s girl band. Joanna is trying to take agency in her life. Fiza is trying to get it back. Both have first-hand experience of racism.

Anne Odeke, Guleraana Mir, Kenny Emson and Sadie Hasler—all writers new to me but who I will look out for in the future—tells stories that all feel as if they come with a personal, invested edge but which have a universal application. They make individual stories matter. This is a low-key, unflashy but beautifully crafted evening that gets to the root of how place moulds us and retains its hold long beyond childhood, long after we think we have left the past behind.

Misfits is streaming live from the Queens Theatre Hornchurch until Sun 22 Nov. You can book tickets here.

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Lyn Gardner

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