Crongton Knights is the story of a quest undertaken by six kids living on an inner city estate where gangs roam the streets and danger lurks around every corner. These brave young Knights have to battle together against real foes and also their own personal demons. Trust and comradeship are tested to the limit.
The play is based on the book by best-selling author Alex Wheatle who lived in South London and worked in youth services helping kids dealing with gang violence. The story felt very real as it unfolded before us and the characters revealed themselves to each other. The adventure, although somehow magical on the colourful stage, was gritty and had real substance and social commentary.
The young cast were extraordinary. Each character was played with real authenticity and the cast moved around the set with great fluidity, breaking into song, harmonizing and beatboxing, which made the spectacle very absorbing. The stage set would spin and the great energy of the young performers was mesmerizing as they ran and jumped and climbed around the place. The music was woven into the play beautifully and was an integral part of the story rather than a feeling like songs were bolted on.
As the play progressed each character became more clearly defined as they slowly revealed their own personal back story. You felt real empathy with these kids. The story was believable and had the hard edge of reality cutting through it like the knives of the gang members that terrorized the young characters. The story played out like a series of Arthurian adventures with danger and trials of courage and trust along the way.
You left feeling you learnt something too. I felt that I had more of an empathy with inner city kids who have to deal with gang violence. The play helped me to relate to the characters lives but did it very skillfully without laying it on thick so it was tiresome or preachy in anyway. It was very cleverly done and you came to realise how these young people’s lives are influenced by a constant threat of violence. Interestingly one of the characters was from Syria and I really liked her indignation at how the gang leaders were running, and ruining, people’s lives but also hinted at the horrors she experienced on her own journey, only to get to a place still dominated by violence.
I highly recommend this play. My companion and I, although both from South London ourselves, commented on how this play might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t think either of us were expecting it to be our cup of tea but we both were totally enthralled.