Book Review: London Road by Nicholas Spagnoletti

My good friend @myhappycoincidence was cleaning out her bookshelf and gave me a ton of books (which I do not have space for on my shelf). One of them was a play set in Cape Town, South Africa. I thought how perfect, because I need to read a play for my reading challenge.

Title: London Road

Author: Nicholas Spagnoletti

Genre: Playscript

Format: Paperback

Pages: 63 pages

Publisher: Junkets Publishers

Publishing Year: 2006

2015 Reading Challenge: A play

The story begins in an apartment complex on London Road in Sea Point, Cape Town, where two unlikely neighbours meet and become friends. Stella, a black Nigerian woman in her thirties, lives in the old caretaker’s flat which is in a state of disrepair. While Rosa, a white woman in her late seventies, lives in a bigger and more comfortable flat with a balcony and a sea view. London Road is a real street in Cape Town, and even though the story is fictional, the characters are telling of some people that you will meet in that region. But they also could be found in many other neighbourhoods around the world.

“There’s nothing wrong with London Road, they say now. They’ve ‘cleaned’ it up. A lick of paint. Some new windows. A bit of glitz. Everything looks better and suddenly nobody has a worry in the world. From an irredeemable hell to the front page of Property Magazine. It’s madness. It’s not real. The real London Road is somewhere in between. Yes that renovated flat with the original parquet floors is on the market for a million and a half. But just downstairs a Congolese family are living with a Pep Stores blanket blocking out the light. A prostitute’s baby is crying for her zonked-out mother.” – London Road, Nicholas Spagnoletti

Unfortunately many racial stereotypes are present in the story, but it is realistic to the judgments that people place on others when they first meet each other. Stella judges Rosa, and Rosa judges Stella. Sometimes it’s accurate, sometimes it’s not. Stella is mixed up with some not so nice people in order to make ends meet, and Rosa is the type of woman that speaks her mind even if it may be perceived as offensive.

I really loved both Rosa and Stella’s characters. Especially Rosa, she was such a funny and interesting character to read. She just jumps off the page. Immediately when she starts to speak you can picture how she would be in real life. I’m sure it would have been great to see her character performed live in the actual play.

I give this playscript a 3.5 out of 5. It was a very short read. It only took me about an hour or two to finish reading it. I wish it would have been a bit longer. But as a play I’m sure it is an average length. Spagnoletti sort of just leaves the reader hanging. The ending sort of just ends and you are left wondering what happens afterwards. Maybe that’s the point. That you need to come to your own conclusions about what happened to Rosa and Stella. But still after I finished the read, I angrily searched for more pages, thinking that some may have been torn out or stuck together. I desperately wanted to fins out what happened next.

The major problem that I had with this play (and this is my feminist voice talking) was that I couldn’t stop thinking about Rosa as a white women trying to be the “saviour” to Stella. I’m not sure if Spagnoletti unconsciously did that, or whether he consciously did it to depict how white women often feel the need to ‘save’ women of colour. This is similar to many white women who do charitable work. They think they are helping women of colour, but sometimes, inadvertently, they will try to impose their “white” ways on these women. But sometimes the “white” ways aren’t always the best ways, and white feminists end up doing more harm than good. Here is a good article for some more information on the White Feminist Saviour Complex.

Rosa offers to help Stella several times in the play, and she tries to fix Stella’s “problems”. But she ends up trying to fix things without asking Stella, assuming that she wants what she’s offering. Stella actually gets upset with her on several occasions when she tries to help.

“Stella: What bargains are you making in my life? This is my life. You are meddling too much.

Rosa: I can’t help it, Stella. When I see the powerful trampling over the disenfranchised, I have to do something, I can’t stand by and watch. I am a socialist and an activist and I’m incapable of doing nothing.

Stella: Who says I’m disenfranchised? You’re not trying to help me. You are just making shit, being naughty, trying to make all these people pissed off with you and me!” – London Road, Nicholas Spagnoletti

I don’t think that Rosa meant to do any harm to Stella, nor do I think she did do any harm, but I am just saying that she displayed many of the characteristics of the white saviour, and maybe if the story had continued on, she could have done more harm than good. But I really did love the play and was disappointed that it was so short. I would love to watch the play actually performed on stage.

I’ve also already finished the graphic novel, Skim, for my reading challenge, and I plan to post the review very soon. So stay tuned!


2 thoughts on “Book Review: London Road by Nicholas Spagnoletti

  1. Glad you liked it! I think the “saviour complex” that you mention is especially heightened in South Africa texts where the desire “free” marginalized women is driven by a guilty post-apartheid society.

    Liked by 1 person

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