JOYCE MCMILLAN on KONTOMBLE at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 26.9.15.
4 stars ****
SUBTITLED “the shaman and the boy”, this powerful new three-handed drama for the Play, Pie And Pint autumn season is not Nalini Chetty’s first play; there have been short pieces before, at the Citizens’ studio, Summerhall and the Arches. Kontomble does, though, mark Chetty’s Oran Mor debut; and it’s a strikingly confident and well-crafted one, as she explores the consequences of a chance meeting between a Ray, a troubled 15-year-old Glasgow boy being brought up by his young aunt after his mother’s early death, and Ezra (or is it Eric?), a tall, commanding west African whom he meets at a Glasgow bus stop.
To Ray, Ezra seems to offer the spiritual mentoring, the male guidance, the rites of passage into manhood, that our society notoriously fails to provide for boys like him. His aunt Ruth, though, is less impressed, suspicious of Ezra’s motives, and convinced that he is not quite what he seems; and in Guy Hollands’s deftly-directed production, the play rapidly develops into a tense struggle between Ruth and Ezra over Ray’s future, and the treatment of his severe mental problems.
In the end, Chetty’s young hero finds a new peace within himself, in a way that seems slightly improbable, given the stresses he endures; but not before Keiran Gallagher, Beth Marshall and Miles Yekinni have acted up a memorable storm of tension over the sheer alienation of modern urban life, in one of the most impressive first plays seen at Oran Mor for a while.
Final performance today.