Tj and Badda have suffered immensely – from the toils of an abusive alcoholic father and runaway mother, respectively – and it is only through basketball that they can find a release.
Haunted by the voices of the past, Tj (Sannchia Gaston) determines that it will be through her skills as a basketball player that she will rise above and succeed.
‘Gotta train, gotta do it,’ she repeats, over and over again, as we see flashbacks of her father beating her to the ground or whipping her with a belt.
Meanwhile, Badda (Christopher ‘Worm’ Lewis) finds his comfort in playing the joker of the pack, taunting Tj with a flurry of ball skills and only in the quiet moments reminiscing on the day he watched his mother walk away from him.
The story, choreographed by Cindy Claes as part of a collaboration between Faith Drama Productions and Spread Expression, is told through hard-hitting hip-hop and street dance routines, to the accompaniment of an often ear-splitting soundtrack.
The quality of the dance on show is at times mesmerising, comprising everything from break-dance to ballet and performed by a crew of considerable talent.
The story is sometimes hard to follow and it is not always easy to know whether one is witnessing appearance or reality, as the main characters are haunted by the apparitions of their parents. Yet, this may very well be deliberate because the production is certainly geared towards challenging one’s preconceptions.
A third story runs in tandem to Tj and Badda’s – that of a young artist called Beyanda (Tulimelila Shityuwete), who is haunted on her bed by nightmares of being struck by a car, while her own personal apparition is ever on hand to bring her deepest, darkest fears to life.
There is rarely a moment for the audience to draw breath as each character goes through the emotional doldrums. Tj, especially, has a hard time throughout, and is often brought to tears before the day of her final redemption comes about.
A large digital clock appears on a screen at various points to signal the countdown to an approaching day – the day, perhaps, that Tj has been training for, though quite what she is training for is never apparent – and the characters start to philosophise, as time ticks by, as to what they would do if only the basketball could give them superpowers or a release from their current state of despair.
Eventually, the clock stops, and Tj and Badda are left to face the realities of both their past and the present.
‘If this ball had superpowers, what would I do?’ asks Tj, finally.
‘I’d give it to you,’ she says.
Voices in the Alleyway is running until 12 June at:
48 Southampton Row
Tel: 020 726 91606