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June 2022

Review: The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre - missing in detail and nuance

Roy Williams' play The Fellowship centres on a small family unit, but there are a lot of big things going on.

The Fellowship Production Image 1 L-R CHERRELLE SKEETE  SUZETTE LLEWELLYN © Robert Day
The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre, June 2022 L-R Cherrelle Skeete and Suzette Llewellyn © Robert Day

Dawn (Cherrelle Skeet) is grieving the loss of a child while caring for her terminally ill mother with little help from her high-flying lawyer sister Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn). She can tell her teenage son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard) is lying to her, and if it's about what she suspects, she will be fuming.

Marcia, meanwhile, has got herself into a relationship with a married politician, which could potentially end her career, and Jermaine has rekindled ties with someone at the heart of a past tragedy.

Dawn and Marcia's mother was tough with her love, and the sisters were once close, fighting on the front line for justice but lead very different lives now. Jermaine has taken the path of least resistance and is drifting away. Tony (Trevor Laird), Dawn's husband and a touring musician, drifts in and out offering little support for any of it, just getting angry. 

The result is a lot of tension and drama, which highlights a whole raft of interesting themes. However, the result is a play that is over-stuffed and missing in detail and nuance.

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Review: Jitney, Old Vic Theatre - great acting but a slow and frustrating play

About halfway through the first half of Jitney at the Old Vic, I had set my mind on leaving at the interval. I couldn't connect with anything or see any signs of what it was building towards.

Jitney old vic 2022
Jitney, Old Vic theatre 2022

The rapid pace of the opening scene, where the drivers at Becker's (Wil Johnson) jitney office are introduced, is a series of arrivals and departures punctuated by banter. No one character is around long enough to get familiar with, and I struggled to find the depth in the jibes and jokes.

It didn't seem to be leading to anything, and it went on too long.

It wasn't until Rena (Leanne Henlon), the girlfriend of Vietnam vet Youngblood (Solomon Israel), turned up that I felt myself properly tuned in - and I decided to stay. Rena is the only female character and has two of the play's most interesting scenes.

The jitney office is under threat from redevelopment. It's in a deprived area but provides a vital service for the community as licensed cabs avoid the area.

War vets and gossip

Aside from Youngblood, for whom driving is one of three jobs he has, the other drivers are Fielding (Tony Marshall), who is an alcoholic, Doub (Geoff Aymer), a quiet, cautious Korean War vet and Turnbo (Sule Rimi) the volatile gossip.

Shealy (Nnabiko Ejimofor) swaggers in to use the office for his betting operations, and the weary Becker tries to keep everyone in line between drives.

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Review: Britannicus, Lyric Hammersmith - toxic family power struggles and misplaced sympathy

At its heart, Britannicus at the Lyric Hammersmith is a drama about a toxic family who happens to be the ruling class. Agrippina (Sirine Saba), Claudius' fourth wife, persuaded her husband to adopt her son Nero (William Robinson) and make him his heir, passing over Britannicus (Nathaniel Curtis), his son by his third wife.

Britannicus Lyric Hammersmith poster

Nero has spent the early part of his reign as an inspiring leader, but he is suffocating under the control of his mother, so he starts freezing her out, which triggers a power battle between the two. Then he falls in love with Junia (Shyvonne Ahmmad), Britannicus' fiancée, and things get really nasty.

The play might be called Britannicus, but it's really about Nero and his mother.

Robinson's Nero is like a hormonal teenager at times, petulant and peevish. At others, he is dangerous and erratic; his mood turns on a dime in behaviour that reminds me of more than one comic book villain.

Little boy lost

But there are also faint signs of a simple desire to be loved, which emerge in rare moments of tenderness with those around him. When pitted directly against his mother, he can appear like a little boy lost—someone who wanted hugs rather than being groomed for power.

And as a result, despite the terrible things he does, I did feel sorry for him on occasion.

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