BBC Radio 4, 9 February 2013
Inspired by Madness' album of the same name, this Saturday Drama
centered around Gazi (Vincent Ebrahim) and his wife Sitara (Pooja Ghai), who together have run the Union Cafe on London's
Norton Folgate for thirty years, serving English breakfasts to a multicultural clientele. Now their livelihood has been
threatened by a demolition order instigated by local builder Ralph Burke (Patrick Brennan), who plans to develop the site
on behalf of some American entrepreneurs.
Interwoven round this Passport to Pimlico-like story (where small
businessholders are threatened by indifferent bureaucrats) is a very un-comic tale of racism and xenophobia. Ralph is
a member of a local political party, a combination of UKIP and the National Front, which wants to rid the district of what
they perceive as malign 'foreign' influences - in other words, people of colour. The demolition plan is part of that strategy,
while at the same time ensuring Ralph's potential election to the local council.
Aided and abetted by a variety of helpers, including Somalian lawyer
Sunshine (Danny Sapani), Ralph's daughter Jess (Stephanie Racine), and the members of the group Madness (playing themselves),
Gazi and Sitara take on Ralph and his cohorts in a successful bid to have the court order reversed.
Combining a love-story, a portrayal of contemporary London, a meditation
on racism and a comment on politics, interspersed with extracts from Madness' album, The Liberty of Norton Folgate fits a
lot into its one-hour running-time. Occasionally the structure appears slightly disordered, but dramatist Mark Davies Markham
brings all the strands together in a feelgood ending. I enjoyed listening to the play, while understanding its serious
undertones. The director was Jeremy Mortimer.