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Dolphins and Sharks 12-30 Sept (Review) Dolphins and Sharks 12-30 Sept (Review)
4.5
Dolphins and Sharks 12-30 Sept (Review)

“It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and find no one there.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

This is one of the harsh lessons learnt in James Anthony Tyler’s thought provoking and absorbing production ‘Dolphins and Sharks’.

 

Set in a cramped and claustrophobic Harlem copy shop owned by the faceless Mr Timmons, four employees with their own demons and issues fight for personal success in dog eat dog story.

 

It begins with an eager Yusuf (Ammar Duffus), fresh out of college and eager for a job so he can start to pay off his students’ loan and prove to his family that he’s no failure.

 

His interview with Xiomara (Rachel Handshaw), a woman who despite a complex love and home life is hungry to climb the corporate goes badly wrong and he is shown the door.

 

He skin is only just saved by the sassy and potty mouthed Isabel (Shyko Ammos), who works just to put her three children through school.

 

When a chance of shop manager arises and Xiomara who was previously Isabel’s ‘home girl’ gets the job, the dynamics of the whole shop changes.

 

Now having to do the bidding of her previous tutee, Isabel wastes no time challenging Xiomara’s authority. She is equally adamant to stamp her presence and do the bidding of her ‘master’.

 

Thrown into the mix is disgruntled janitor Danilo (Hermeillio Miquel Aquino) who work hours have been savagely cut.

 

What ensues over the next two hours is searing exploration of the effects the transition from shop floor to management.

 

Under the skilful direction of Lydia Parker, the themes of racism, class, gender and animosities between Africans, Latinos and African Americans are deftly scrutinised without being ‘preachy’ or self-serving.

 

The play highlights the fragilities of office loyalties when money and position come into play. How scratching just below the surface can release a Pandora’s Box of jealousy, spitefulness, petty tensions and more.

 

Even though set in an African American shop, the issues are universal. Is it possible for people of different ‘classes’ to come together for the greater good? Is it possible to be a manager and still be loyal or friends with your shop floor colleagues?

 

These and many other questions are exquisitely brought to life by this fine cast of actors. From the thieving and annoying Yusuf to the steely uncompromising Xiomara, each actor brings something genuinely unique to their role.

 

Without doubt the standout actor was Ms Ammos. Her portrayal of the outwardly brunt yet inwardly fragile Isabel was quite mesmerising. From her sexy hip shaking ‘twerking’, uncouth behaviour to her sad admissions of failure, she was both exciting and uncomfortable to watch in the same measure.

 

However the tenant of the play’s title about workers uniting for the common good is never fully examined or probed. Enlightening and engrossing as the play was, there is not a clear message. Perhaps that was the idea. That humans should be more like dolphins rather than the squabbling individuals we tend to be.

 

Are we in the words of Amenze (Miquel Brown) ‘are you always gonna be fighting each other for crumbs?

 

This is an excellent and enthralling play that is not only enjoyable on many levels but will have you contemplating the issues it throws up.

 

The Finborough Theatre is well known for putting on provocative and intriguing productions, Dolphins and Sharks does not harm to this well-earned reputation.

 

Dolphins and Sharks, 12-30 Sept, Finborough Theatre, sw10 9ED, 7.30pm £10-£16 Box Office 0844 847 1652 Book online at www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

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