The epic 480 page novel, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, set in North West London tells the story of three families of three different cultures across three generations, with a Nazi Doctor and a brown mouse thrown in to the mix for good measure.
I enjoyed the book immensely, so it was obvious that our annual London theatre trip would include a visit to the Kiln Theatre Kilburn, for the world premiere of White Teeth.
I was interested to see how this complex story with its various subplots would transfer into a musical production.
White Teeth has been adapted for the stage by Stephen Starkey, who has stripped the story to it’s bare bones which results in a fast paced production directed by Indhu Rubasingham.
The story opens with dentist Rose, a character not in the novel, being stabbed with a syringe of Novocain by the character called “Mad Mary” by the locals of Kilburn high street. Mad Mary then guides Rose through her coma induced dream to tell her the story of her parents and grandparents. Rose and Mary remain on stage throughout the production as they watch the story unfold around them.
Tom Piper’s stage design effectively recreates Kilburn high street; the use of photographic imagery creating a surreal comic strip feel.
White Teeth is a play with songs rather than a musical. Written by Paul Englishby the songs are enjoyable but at times lacked any real strength or power, which is a shame as the right songs could have really enhanced this piece.
There are strong performances from every member of this talented cast, some playing multiple roles, and all worked together as a team to create a production that reflects on the concerns of parents and children living in multicultural Britain today.
Ayesha Dharker gave a memorable performance as Alsana Iqbal. I felt her anger, pain and sorrow, when discovering her son had been sent to Bangladesh to live without her consent.
For anyone looking for a recreation of the novel on stage then they may be disappointed by this adaptation. However, if you are looking for a piece of theatre that is full of energy and humour, peppered with thought provoking insights relating to identity and belonging faced by second and third generation immigrants to the UK, then this production of White Teeth is for you.
White Teeth ran at the Kiln theatre until 22nd December 2018.
Theatretastic rating 3/5:
We say: “White Teeth is a piece of theatre that is full of energy and humour, peppered with thought provoking insights relating to identity and belonging faced by second and third generation immigrants to the UK.”