White Teeth

The Observer - The New Review - - Theatre -

Kiln, London NW6; un­til 22 Dec

Or­ange Tree, Rich­mond, Sur­rey; un­til 1 Dec It is a striking co­in­ci­dence – or is it ne­ces­sity? – of pre­oc­cu­pa­tions, and the way they are staged. This au­tumn three bold adap­ta­tions, of nov­els and a play, fea­ture twins, women work­ing out where they be­long, and a city pris­ing it­self open to dif­fer­ent selves. All es­chew gim­let-eyed re­al­ism. All are fluid, flam­boy­ant, par­o­dic. All ex­press them­selves partly in song.

Kwame Kwei-Armah’s glo­ri­ous mu­si­cal pro­duc­tion of Twelfth Night, which takes Shake­speare to the Not­ting Hill car­ni­val, ends its run at the Young Vic this month. Emma Rice’s adap­ta­tion of An­gela Carter’s Wise Chil­dren – ask­ing who’s your fa­ther, with a lot of how’s your fa­ther – sets off on a coun­try­wide tour this week. And now Indhu Rubas­ing­ham di­rects a melod­i­cally spiced stag­ing of White Teeth at the Kiln.

Slapped down, slap-up, slap­stick. On the page and on stage, this is part cir­cus, part doc­u­men­tary. Stephen Sharkey’s adap­ta­tion of Zadie Smith’s first novel cap­tures some­thing of what made the book so gal­vanis­ing in 2000 – and what has made it so ad­dic­tive ever since. I wish it did not sem­a­phore what it’s up to.

Kil­burn High Road, on which the the­atre stands, is skit­tishly put on stage in Tom Piper’s graph­i­cally sim­ple, car­toon-like de­sign. Ultra-bright char­ac­ters shimmy through it, as if pitch­ing them­selves as sideshows. It was in­ci­sive and imag­i­na­tive of Smith – who as a young writer was more of­ten praised for her sense of the

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