Review: The Croydonians (Matthews Yard)

By - Tuesday 25th June, 2013

A community theatre group provides a thought-provoking and funny show about the nature of what we call home

Matthews Yard – Time from East Croydon  10 mins 

The Croydonians

The Croydonians: (left to right), William Harris, Smita Sukumar, Joan Godfrey, Fatima Alabi, Miguel Rowlanes, Victor Mbuna

Perpanata is exactly the kind of thing Croydon – nay, the world – needs more of. This council-funded theatre company aims ‘to produce original theatre that is representative of Croydon’s international community’. Rehearsing on Tuesday evenings in the Clocktower, the company is made up of members who hail from all corners of the world but now live in Croydon.

At Matthews Yard on 17th June, they presented their annual show, along with a short performance of music by youth group Soundmix. The Croydonians was a short but warming look at the idea of home, welcome, and expectations. Essentially a piece of storytelling in its purest form, it had plenty of funny and thought-provoking moments. The audience was left to chew over a true story in which we were asked whether we thought the protagonist, who had been shouted at for trying to help an elderly woman pick up her shopping, was a young black man or a white man. It turned out the protagonist in the actual event had been an elderly white woman.

The Croydonians closed the performance with a powerful shared poem based around the chorus of ‘home is where I choose’ – its double meaning was clear and well-conveyed by the diverse and talented performers, who brought different shades of charisma to the piece. William Harris’ earnest charm worked well alongside Joan Godfrey’s ballsy attitude.

It’s the genuine nature of their performances that makes them so watchable

Miguel Rowlanes had an earthy, genuine quality to his relationship with the audience, while Smita Sukumar had a cheeky, light feel that bubbled with the energy of someone who obviously enjoyed life. Victor Mbuna was bright-eyed and engaging, a trait he shared with Fatima Alabi, who brought a smart-mouthed sass to her performance. The Croydonians themselves are obviously a talented cast, but it’s the genuine nature of their performances that makes them so watchable.

The piece was followed by a short show of original songs written by Soundmix, the youth music group also based at the Clocktower. None of the guitartists or keyboardists had been learning their instruments for longer than three months, and the two pieces they played were impressive and accomplished. Definitely something to watch for the future – or get involved with yourself.

The work this company does is notable and admirable on a social and community level, but the pieces on show here were artistically notable in their own right. This was not some ‘noble effort’ by inexperienced performers that the audience politely applauded because everyone had worked so hard. I have seen my fair share of shows like that, and this was something different entirely. The Croydonians and Soundmix showed genuine talent and an obvious love for their craft. I am very excited to keep an eye on what this group will continue to produce.

Tom Black

Tom Black

Tom is the Citizen's General Manager, and spent his whole life in Croydon until moving to Balham in 2017. He also writes plays that are occasionally performed and books that are occasionally enjoyed. He's been a Labour Party member since 2007, and in his spare time runs an online publishing house for alternate history books, Sea Lion Press. He is fluent in Danish, but speaks no useful languages. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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