No Strings Attached: Islington Square

No Strings Attached

From left to right Razak Osman, Shak Benjamin in No Strings Attached - Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

No Strings Attached was scheduled for its first performance in April 2019. By the time it premiered in late May it was a full 436 days late.

With Covid regs still in place, the King’s Head Theatre had to hitch up its skirts and pop round the corner to a large empty shop (part of the Islington Square development that is sanitising the life out of Upper Street).

Infection precautions were impressive – temperature-talking on arrival, booking-in, social distancing and mask wearing throughout. The audience felt thoroughly safe. And it was great to be back in a theatre space for a challenging production which, over 60 minutes, would help to compensate for the long wait.

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached - Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

Onto a stage dressed with the bleakness of an underground car park – breeze blocks, concrete floor and industrial lighting, shuffle two lads busy with post-coital zipping and buckling up.

The younger (Boy), is from Wood Green and this is his lucrative business to see him through college. But, as their chat reveals, he is ambitious and wants to go legit which means a nice job in the City, wearing nice clothes and achieving respect.

His client (Man) comes from Peckham, is married, has a couple of children and a well-paid job … the epitome of legit. He is coy about his work but reveals he is turned on by excitement and thrills. Secretly, he loathes being legit.

With very strong language, the rhythms of the conversation meander from the mundane to the grotesque, each trying to find out about the other and both holding back their truths – until much is resolved at the play’s end. Some overlong silences add little to the narrative, but the dialogue is brilliant: spare but rich and the actors' timing and mutual understanding is sensational.

No Strings Attached

Shak Benjamin in No Strings Attached - Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

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Much credit for the authenticity of Charles Entsie’s compelling piece must go to director Aileen Gonsalves. Shak Benjamin and Razak Osman both turn in fine performances and I’m sure we will be seeing their names on more programmes in the future.

4/5 stars.