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  • Isabella Thompson

Review - Between the Lines

New Diorama Theatre

Playing until 1st June 2024

Review {AD-PR Gifted}

Whilst chaos ensues in society at large, The Shut Down Crew’s very own Blaze FM provides mid-2000s England with the ‘biggest tunes, baddest DJs and the realest truths’. Despite an effortlessly cool, gritty and engaging first half, what starts as a trailblazing piece of theatre gradually runs out of steam.


It is irrefutable that Jammz and Shemzy’s music is the beating heart of this play and enhances it to no end. Grime beats flow through its veins and are the life-blood to the on-stage activism. The live MC-ing, rapping and music-making ignites the play with an infectious energy that the audience cannot escape. Tina Torbey’s impressive set design with mesmerising industrial projections brings the audience within touching distance of Blaze FM’s studio, making us feel like members of the Shut Down Crew ourselves.


The talent of the cast is astounding; in particular, Aliaano El-Ali, Alexander Lobo Moreno and Marcus Reiss demonstrate impressive musicianship in addition to their strong stage presence that make the audience beg for more. At various intervals, The New Diorama is transformed into a micro-rave as we bob our heads and holler at the explosive rhythms. This aspect is not only well-integrated into the fabric of the play, but propels it, conveying the anxieties and outrage of the characters right in front of our eyes. It would make a grime-convert out of anyone.


The play makes some thought-provoking commentary on the British socio-political climate that remains highly relevant today. James Meteyard uses the radio station as an effective device to spark discourse, spotlighting the characters’ individualities. In many ways, this works: the audience care about the characters’ opinions because Hughbert’s passion for family and the ‘collective heart and mind’ of his community grounds the risky business of illegal broadcasting with an endearing sentiment. Censorship is one of the issues most effectively explored, as The Shut Down Crew fight against government claims that grime incites violence, defending their right to freely speak about their lived experience of crime, hate and injustice.


Unfortunately, the passionate performances only serve the political commentary up to a point: clunky plot points and lack of on-stage action weaken the impact of the text. Once invested in the Shut Down Crew’s efforts in building a ‘sanctuary, an oracle for the real people’, the audience is robbed of a sense of resolution by the end of the play. Some characters seem to stay stuck, not realising their full potential and instead, perpetuate the stereotypes they have been fighting against. In their defence, this is the harsh reality of life; however, as a stage play, such narrative decisions risk presenting as trauma-porn. It is a shame, as Meteyard is clearly skilled in writing text, but the overall story arc needs work.


Between the Lines is a unique play that has clearly been crafted with a great deal of passion and heart. The Big House has produced a lively piece of theatre that, despite its flaws, will captivate audiences for its remaining run.



Writer: James Meteyard

Director: Maggie Norris

Writer and Composer: Jammz

Musical Director: Shemzy

Set designer: Tina Torbey

Lighting designer: Alex Forey

Sound designer: Jack Baxter

Video designer: Mic PoolCostume designer: Lambdog1066

Associate director: Christopher Neels

Set design associate: Pauline McGrath Stage Manager: Stacey Nurse

Producer: Nassy Konan

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