Custody, 3 Stars

Custody by Urbain Hayo
28th March to 8th April, 2017

“Another young black man dies in police custody. Apparently no-one is to blame. In 2017 how can that be so?

Custody, created by Urbain Hayo (The Art Machine) and written by Tom Wainwright (Banksy: the Room in the Elephant), is a contemporary fictional narrative about the moment another young black man’s life is taken from him whilst in custody. The play follows Brian’s bereaved family’s struggle for justice and resolution and asks: who will protect us from the protectors of society?

Directed by Gbemi Ikumelo, Custody tackles a vital subject in a vivid, timely and authentic way. Black deaths in police custody are often assumed to be an American issue. Custody reminds us that they are not.

Inspired by Migrant Media’s banned cult documentary films Injustice and Who Polices the Police, Custody draws on the real life experiences of families who have suffered from police injustice. Its exploration of the way young black men are treated by the police in Britain today draws directly from stop and searches experienced by Urbain Wolf”.

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

Such an important story and message about institutional racism, cover-up, and the subsequent closure of corporate ranks. Everything we know and dread that bubbles beneath the surface of our society. Those with power and broken moral compasses who are untouchable and above the law.

This play has everything – a stage set of sophistication (Phil Newman), multi-layered and dynamic, choreographic movements (Cindy Claes) hypnotically symbolic as if we were watching humans moving like trapped fish in a tank, eerie drone sound effects to underscore and help pitch the singing, topped off with some great acting.

Outstanding Haze Control shows off an effective lighting plot (John Castle). Every lighting fixture placed to make an impact, fully showing off the depth of the space and amplifying the multiple staging.

Technically this show is very impressive. All the cogs engaged for a Wow factor. Unfortunately, somehow, when the wheels keep turning it becomes slightly distracting. The over-engineering detracts from the heart of the story. This is one show where less would have been more. The bells and whistles only need to sound once to make a greater impact.

This production might have also dug deeper if it was based on one true story. This fictional story is based on the concept of the fractious relationship between the Police and the Black community. I was expecting to be ethically and morally horrified by the Production, considering the storyline, but actually left thinking how hard everyone must have worked to put this show together.

Photo Credit Lidia Crisafulli

Performance Dates Tuesday 28th March – Saturday 8th April 2017
Running time 70 minutes
Notes Ages 13 +
Location Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW

How to get there Ovalhouse is located directly opposite the Oval cricket ground. The nearest underground stations are Oval (on Northern line) and Vauxhall (on the Northern and Victoria lines). The nearest rail station is Vauxhall.

Box Office Tickets are available priced £14 (£8). Available from the Ovalhouse box office and or 020 7582 7680.

Twitter #WhoIsBrian, @CustodyPlay, @Ovalhouse

Creator Urbain Hayo
Writer Tom Wainwright
Director Gbemisola Ikumelo
Movement Director Cindy Claes
Dramaturge John Russell Gordon


Ovalhouse is a lively theatre on the Kennington Oval, opposite the famous cricket ground. For the past 50 years, Ovalhouse has been part of the London fringe, providing development and performance space to experimental, radical and overlooked artists. Whether you love a show or not there is always so much talk about after a performance here! Today Ovalhouse is known for theatre and performance that speaks to a world beyond the mainstream, and continues to be a vital home for boundary-pushing art and artists with an eye on the future.