The first step out of the theatre space was literally like a breath of fresh air. POT transferred the annoyance, irritability, and frustration of Louisa over to myself in the 90 minutes running time. And this isn’t to say that the play was terrible, I actually mostly enjoyed it, but the lack of scene change, interval, costume change, cast members and the constant haziness of the lighting was quite jarring – pun intended. This, however, was done quite cleverly in order to make us understand what Louisa was feeling and empathise with her and her situation, even if we don’t sympathise, don’t want to sympathise, or flat-out disagree with her actions. The reason I use the word ‘jarring’ in particular is in reference to the play’s title. For me, it resembles a pot boiling and overflowing much like the emotions of Louisa, Miles, and Josh alike who are quickly angered and constantly on edge. It resembles the tensions boiling between Louisa and the outside world, as well as the feeling of confinement – like when the pot cover is locked tight over your steadily cooking Sunday dinner, and you can’t get into it, and the contents cannot get out.
“ POT transferred the annoyance, irritability and frustration of Louise over to myself in the 90 minutes running time.”
POT manages to tell a story of gang crime from a female perspective and doesn’t try to make Louisa’s choices or dialogue more palatable based on her gender. Ambreen Razia is actually really fantastic in this aspect. She doesn’t play into respectability politics and shows the active role of women within gang crime which is often overlooked as mere passivity in holding and hiding weapons or luring people in. Also, Razia is great in the sense that we further question who is to be held accountable. Louisa is my age; she is freshly seventeen and was, in fact “born into this”, meanwhile the majority of audience members, including myself, “were born into bliss”. We question the role of the state and the part it has to play in the fate of hundreds of young people in similar situations. We also question the extent to which they themselves are accountable – they, in this case, being Louisa but also countless other real-life teenagers held ransom by a world of gangs, drugs and violence. We come to understand their lack of choice. Louisa was passed around from care home to care home like a game of ‘pass-the-vulnerable-unloved-uncared for-parcel’. She tried to look for her biological mother 67 times. And failed 67 times. She calls her relationship with Josh “love”, but Miles highlights that it was merely “recruitment”. Louisa believes in him blindly. But what choice does she have? The state has failed her. The education system has failed her. Social services have failed her. Her parents have failed her. What choice does she really have? Two weeks have gone by and I’m still thinking about this. POT is truly powerful.
“ I was often transfixed in a whirlpool of confusion from the endless minutes of raised voices which felt like they weren’t really saying anything.”
But then we come to the dialogue. Oh, the sweet dialogue. For the most part, it was great. It was engaging and hard to swallow, although necessary to digest if we were to give those whose story this is a voice, and it was very thoughtfully and cleverly written. But I can’t help feeling as if it didn’t reach its full potential. I was often transfixed in a whirlpool of confusion from the endless minutes of raised voices which felt like they weren’t really saying anything. POT began some spoken word and I was expecting some more instances of poetry to further intensify and dramatize the play, which never came. I was expecting some thoughts from Josh on his choices and lifestyle as the ringleader, which never came. Aside from this, POT starts with emotions and tensions so high that there is often nowhere for the actors to go. If you start at the top, where else can you progress to? This made me immediately dislike the characters; Louisa’s first outburst was difficult to decipher and Miles’ unwillingness to reveal information, but his evident knowledge of the truth, was also frustrating. Moreover, Josh opens the play but doesn’t return until well into it. I sat wondering for a good while who he was and what was his significance, deterring me from fulling indulging in the performance. Despite all of this, the comedic relief, dotted around the dialogue, managed to alleviate some of the play’s intensity. You could feel the weight of the room lighten with every laugh and joke that occurred and it compensated for the sometimes-embarrassing dialogue.
As of this moment, I find myself looking over my notes for this play and there is one line that stands out from the rest: “the block is the devil’s playground… He preys on those whose dreams have drowned”. POT highlights the struggles of young people with no way out. It highlights the struggles of young people who have been failed by various individuals and institutions alike and have been preyed upon by a darkness that they fall both villains and victims to. Overall, I enjoyed POT. Regardless of the sometimes hard to follow plot, parts of the dialogue and how it often repeated itself, the play had a very impactful and thoughtful message about gangs, manipulation and being a product of your circumstances. POT has raised unescapable questions about how we can resolve these issues and help those who are most vulnerable to them. It put its audience at the forefront of a reality that the British public too often side-line and for that I am grateful. It forces us to see the other side of a too habitually biased narrative. Ambreen Razia has worked wonders in creating conversation and showing the different perspectives of those involved in and directly affected by gangs. Seeing this play brought me out of my comfort zone, especially that of a typical Friday night.