Keeffe's Barbarians tip up in Tooting bringing 'astonishing relevance'
A revival of a drama written in 1977 with “astonishing relevance” to contemporary Britain opened in South London this week. Barrie Keeffe’s Barbarians is a trilogy of plays about disaffected youth amid record youth unemployment.
Speaking to independent.co.uk, Keeffe said he was pleased the play was being revisited 30 years after it was written, but is deeply saddened that its “tragic setting” could easily be 2012.
Keeffe is best known for penning the screenplay of 1981 film The Long Good Friday, a British gangster flick which gave Bob Hoskins his breakthrough role and also starred Helen Mirren. In the seventies and eighties Keeffe wrote around 40 plays, notably Gotcha (1977) and Sus (1979) - about the infamous Stop and Search laws. Keeffe has a pleasingly caustic skill for dialogue which renders the serious subject-matter he chooses punchy, accessible and darkly funny.
Barbarians is about three 18-year-old lads from Lewisham called Paul, Jan and Louis and the respective trouble that they get into. The play is full of acute social irony and, in an early scene, the trio find it hilarious when they spot their old careers advisor down the Job Centre queuing for his dole.
This is the first time it has been revived in over twenty years. The outfit responsible for it is Tooting Arts Club (TAC), a newly founded fringe theatre organization. Producer and founder Rachel Edwards came across Barbarians while looking for a script for her third production. “[I read it and] it fit the bill, and then some. The play is astonishingly relevant […] Then, like now, youth unemployment was at an all time high and stories about a ‘disaffected generation’ were regularly on the news agenda,” she told WhatsOnStage.com.
Keeffe said that when the riots broke out across England last summer he recognized something in “that explosion of anger” which was intensely relevant to what happened in the 1970s.
The TAC don’t have a permanent theatre, so the production is being staged at the Broadway Studios on Tooting High Street which, appropriately enough, is an old Youth Enterprise Scheme building.
Keeffe has been loosely involved in the Tooting production of Barbarians which is directed by Bill Buckhurst. “I saw a rehearsal on Tuesday and I was struck by how modern it still seemed,” he said. “I’m very happy with what they’re doing. It is connecting with something real.”
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
MasterChef, TV review: The final climaxed in a frenzy of herbs and hyperbole
Male student sues Columbia University for 'gender-based harassment' after alleged 'Mattress Performance' rape victim Emma Sulkowicz went public with claims
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election