The Liberty of Norton Folgate by Mark Davies Markham

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

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.