It’s 1982 and Deptford is rife with racial tension, youth unemployment and riots. Eastenders actor turned playwright Arinze Kene’s new play God’s Property looks back to the past, but is still very much relevant to the present, writes Laura Burgoine…
“I wrote it about two years ago, before the 2011 riots but it shows that history repeats itself,” the Nigerian born artist tells the Weekender. “The play is set a year after the 1981 riots but there’s still a tension in the air similar to today where everyone is still cautious”.
Having been selected for the Soho Six: a group of six writers who are commissioned and are in residency for a six month period to work on a new play for Soho Theatre, Arinze admits there is nothing scarier than a blank canvas. “I wasn’t seeing parts or reading plays that I really wanted to be in and even though I didn’t set out to fill that gap I feel that subconsciously that’s what I am doing,” he reflects. “British theatre is brilliant at documenting the country’s history but I felt like there were parts of it that weren’t being documented, particularly the black history of Britain”.
God’s Property follows the lives of two estranged mixed race brothers in Deptford. “It shows the racial tension in the area at that time and what it means to be mixed race or “half caste” as it was referred to then, and how this affects your identity,” Arinze summarises.
The Hackney resident, who first moved to London in 1991, is known for playing Connor Stanley in Eastenders and a stint as Simba in the Lion King. “I started writing at the same time as acting but it took a long while for me to become recognised and to get inspired,” he says. “This play has some really meaty roles that people might not see everyday”.
God’s Property is playing at The Albany, Douglas Way, SE8 4AG from February 20 to February 23. Admission: £8-£14. Phone: 020 8692 4446. http://www.thealbany.org.uk/