Theatre Peckham’s timely revival of Extremism will immerse the audience as it explores characters’ truths

By Lucas Hill-Paul
October 22 2019, 15.35

Theatre Peckham will host a stirring new revival of Anders Lustgarten’s play Extremism from the 5-23 November.

The theatre’s artistic director and previous director of the production’s 2017 run at the Dorfman Theatre in South Bank, Suzann McLean, will take on directing duties once again.

Rehearsals were underway this week, and Ms McLean is excited to bring the complex and stimulating drama to a new audience with a fresh cast of up-and-comers.

She said: “One of the things I wanted to do with this initiative is to find those young people who are brilliant in terms of their talent, but they’re not sure if they want to go to drama school or try to get by themselves.

“I wanted to do something for those kind of young people who need to find their way in terms of a career.”

Extremism’s new iteration will feature Asha Hassan, Nansi Love, Na’eemah N’diaye, Nadezhda Stoycheva, Tyrell Weekes-Harper, Hollie Regan, Marlo Rye, Kingsley Sowole, Julien Pitchell and Denneil Dunbar.

All the action in Lustgarten’s script takes place in a single location, a classroom, during the aftermath of a young schoolboy being taken away by police after showing signs of radicalisation.

The play features the real life organisation Prevent, which works with young people across the UK in an attempt to stifle the dissemination of extremist political views amongst developing and vulnerable minds.

Ms McLean added: “Prevent are now looking at starting again and are trying to find out how to do that initiative better.

“I couldn’t have predicted that but it ended up being really timely to do the production now.”

Suzann McLean is an award-winning actress herself, known for her roles on Doctor Who, Casualty and, most recently, Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet’s Good Omens.

Ms McLean said that her career as an actress herself has helped her understand the complexities of the actor’s process.

She said: “What I really enjoy is finding the truth within a character.

“The cast have definitely been throwing themselves in it and really enjoying the fact that I’m pushing them to discover the root of the truth of their character and to make such strong instinctive choices.”

Audiences will have to see the incredible stage design for themselves, but Ms McLean promises theatre fans will be thrown into an immersive experience as soon as they take their seats.

She added: “It’s like this hot box, an incubating space.

“You’re going to feel like you’ve been locked inside this classroom and, at the end, wanting to get out and be saved.”

As political division in the UK heats to boiling point in what is ostensibly to be the last month of Brexit negotiations, the revival of Extremism is especially prescient, and explores some potentially challenging conversations.

Ms McLean is encouraging younger people and families to attend the event, as well as the Conversation Stations being set up after each performance to provide opportunities to discuss the themes of the play as well as seek advice from specialist organisations.

She said: “We’ve got young people today as a generation who have grown up being watched by social media and with that they’re constantly being judged.

“We’re also seeing a rise in concerns for mental health in young people, and we’re not really realising how those two things are linked.”

The play was first staged as part of the National Theatre’s Connections festival in 2017 and, with its 2019 revival, represents a milestone for Theatre Peckham in terms of the difficult and relevant themes explored in Anders Lustgarten’s highly charged script. For tickets contact Theatre Peckham on 0207 708 5401 or visit the website.

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