Roy Williams' play The Fellowship centres on a small family unit, but there are a lot of big things going on.
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.
Which makes it a frustrating watch because there were a lot of potentially interesting topics that could have been more fully explored. It felt like several plays mashed together.
It could have been a play about the Windrush generation and their relationship with their children or interracial relationships, sisters and families drifting apart, the fight to forge a legal career as a black lawyer, protecting those we love...the list goes on.
Nuance in the characters was also lost amid all the big ideas. Dawn had two gears the occasional fun, 80s pop music-loving woman or angry. Every conversation seemed to quickly accelerate into an argument, so there was no differentiation of feelings. It becomes numbing watching a string of rows.
I found myself drawn to the few lighter and tender moments of the play - the sisters dancing like they were teenagers again, for example. But ultimately, it's a play packed full of promise, but in trying to do too much succeeds in very little.
I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️.
The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre
Written by Roy Williams
Director Paulette Randall
Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes, including an interval
Booking until 23 July, see Hampstead's website for details and tickets.