Moonfleece, Rich Mix, London

4.00

Jerry Springer the Opera famously inflamed Christians to most un-Christian thoughts of censorship and worse. Cat-calling protesters marched with placards outside the fringe theatre that hosted the London premiere of Corpus Christi, the Terrence McNally play that dared to suggest that the God of love might just as well have been gay as straight or sexless. Not, though, that Christians have the monopoly on illiberal outrage. Some members of the Sikh community were so affronted by the play Behzti at the Birmingham Rep that violence broke out among a minority of the protesters and performances of the play were cancelled two days later.

But the reaction to Moonfleece – the splendid Philip Ridley play that now receives its professional premiere in David Mercatali's brilliantly alert and magically tragicomic production in Bethnal Green's new Rich Mix arts centre – seems to be of a different order of revealing negativity. Originally developed a couple of years ago with sixth formers as part of the National Theatre's invaluable New Connections season, the play – in true Ridley-esque East End Gothic fashion – takes a darkly fantastical but psychologically acute look at the emotional origins of BNP activism in one Bethnal Green family. It's as if a lurid political rosette were to be traced back to its poisoned roots.

Pointedly mounted as we are about to go into a general election, the play had flushed out the BNP in its true colours even before its opening night. The organisation has refused all invitations to share a public platform to debate the issues raised by Moonfleece, while not being shy of posting unedifying comments about it on theatre websites. The level of the attacks there is summed up by the suggestion that it constitutes an insult to the indigenous white population and that a better play would explore the downside of multiculturalism – the "Muslim paedophiles" who groom young girls and the "Somali drug dealers" who kill young males. To which the democratic answer is: fine, why not write or commission such a play?

Set in an abandoned East End council flat, this play opens like an amphetamine-fuelled droll cross between Pinter and the (Ridley-scripted) Kray brothers film. Spruce in identical grey suits, red ties and badges, three twentysomething brothers, surnamed Avalon, descend on the mixed-race teenager who is squatting there. One of the brothers is eye-poppingly thick; the other two are variously troubled. All of them are racists and fascists.

In one sense, you could say that Moonfleece is semi-autobiographical. It's as if Ridley, who, as a child had to look after his own highly phobic brother when his mother fell ill with depression, has hypothesised an alternative past in which the family became the prey of a white racist stepfather who himself had family reasons, though not justifications, for his prejudices. The sibling bond is very powerful in Ridley's plays and revelation of the way that it was betrayed here causes the climactic moment of self-discovery and potential change.

To 13 March (020 7613 7498)

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'