7 posts categorized "BAME" Feed

Review: The treat that is Barber Shop Chronicles, streaming from the National Theatre archive

You can't beat the experience of sitting in a theatre watching a live performance but one of the lockdown-positives is a chance to watch stuff I sadly missed and Barber Shop Chronicles is one of those.


It feels particularly fortuitous to see it because what is being streamed isn't an NT Live recording rather it was filmed for the archive* and these generally aren't for public consumption.

Despite watching Barber Shop Chronicles in isolation on my laptop you still get a sense of its vibrancy and its pulse.

Set in six different barber shops - London, Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala and Harare - Inua Ellams' play showcases the similarities of human experience, desires and dreams across different cultures while simultaneously demonstrating what makes them unique and individual.

Over the course of a day, the barber shop-setting, combined with a big football match between Chelsea and Barcelona is a connecting thread on one level, the desire to belong and be seen is another.

The setting is clever, the barber shop functioning not merely as a place for haircuts and shaves but also a place of  (male) community where opinions are aired, arguments worked through and jokes swapped.

We hear differing opinions on parenting, masculinity, the post-colonialism landscape and immigration, which paints a vivid kaleidoscope of culture and thinking.

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Review: Fairview, Young Vic - what stands out a few weeks after seeing it

Fairview certainly isn't a forgettable play. It's been a few weeks since I saw it but I'm only now getting to my review and while some details have faded others remain crystal clear.

Fairview Poster Young Vic
Photo: Rev Stan

Before I launch into my thoughts, I'll caveat this by saying there may be spoilers in this review, don't read on if that annoys you; I did toy with the idea of writing a spoiler-free version but would rather give free rein to my thoughts, on this occasion.

The closest comparison I can make for Fairview is the Almeida's Mr Burns a few years ago which I didn't get on with brilliantly.

And while it has elements that are problematic, I found Fairview more engaging and powerful than Anne Washburn's play.

It is set in the home of a black family where they are preparing for a birthday meal with their grandmother.

Too conventional?

The set felt a little too conventional for the Young Vic, compared to their usual fare and there was something a little soap-opera esque about the story.

But after a whole act of what looked like a standard family drama, setting up characters, tension and mystery, the second act takes on a wholly different tone.

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Coming soon klaxon...a fringe play you should see

One of the highlights of my trip to the Edinburgh Fringe last year was Nouveau Riché's Queens of Sheba.

It was an exhilarating watch and sparked a strong emotional response so I'm chuffed to see that it is touring the country in the Autumn.

Details of the tour can be found here and if you are London-based, like me, then Queens of Sheba will be at the Battersea Arts Centre 18-23 November.

It's a show I can't recommend enough and if you want to know more, you can read my review here.

Review: Summer Rolls, Park Theatre - tough love viewed through a lens in the first British Vietnamese play

Actress and writer Tuyen Do's first full length play Summer Rolls brings a story about a British Vietnamese family to a UK stage for the first time.

13. Anna Nguyen - Summer Rolls - Photographer: Danté Kim
Anna Nguyen - Summer Rolls, Park Theatre. Photo: Danté Kim

Mother (Linh-Dan Pham) believes hard work and drive will result in success. She is strict with her two children Mai (Anna Nguyen) and Anh (Michael Phong Lee) and her husband (Kwong Loke) doesn't come off lightly either.

Mai is bright and works hard but pushes against the boundaries imposed by her mother.

She enjoys photography and delving beneath the surface of a photo but it makes her realise there is far more to her parents and what they've experienced than they outwardly present.

But, she doesn't know how to talk to them about it until almost too late.

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Interview: Actor & writer Tuyen Do on diverse narratives and having her first full play staged

Tuyen Do is no stranger to the London stage having appeared most recently in The Great Wave at the National Theatre and Pah-Na at the Royal Court but next week she'll be sitting in the audience watching her first full length play Summer Rolls performed at the Park Theatre.

Tuyen Do

I asked her about the play, how she'll be feeling and whether it is getting any easier to stage narratives from a more diverse background.

Tell us a bit about Summer Rolls and where the idea for the play came from.

Summer Rolls is a family drama that spans over 20 years and is seen through the eyes of the youngest daughter Mai as she navigates her dual identity as a second-generation Vietnamese immigrant and comes of age.

She realises very young that her family are nursing deep wounds and secrets. Having escaped from a war-torn country, their individual journeys and memories have left scars that Mai was too young to know. 

Embracing her family’s silence; Mai turns to photography and in capturing ‘essential’ moments finds herself a chronicler of her community’s experiences and an essential catalyst to her family’s healing.

How does it feel to have your first full production and what can audiences expect?

I’m still processing it, and don’t I think I will be able to fully grasp it until I’m sitting amongst the audience, seeing and feeling this play with them.

The play has been so beautifully brought to life by the genius team behind it.

The photography, design, sound and lights have elevated it into so much more than I ever imagined.

Audiences should feel like they are peering into a Vietnamese family home as if they are the walls of the house. A place they’ve never seen before, but will universally connect to through the complicated, joyful and painful family dynamics within it.

They should expect to laugh, cry and be moved by the brilliant performances.

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Review: Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre - an exposing and painful play which distracts from its key themes

It is the women that come to the fore and feel like the more interesting and sympathetic characters.

Rakie Ayola as Vivian in 'Strange Fruit' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Rakie Ayola as Vivian in 'Strange Fruit', Bush Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray.

Caryl Phillips' play Strange Fruit focuses on cultural identity in 1980s Britain.

Vivian (Rakie Ayola) left the Caribbean with her two young sons Errol and Alvin seeking a better life but after 20 years in England, the family finds themselves caught between two cultures.

The grown-up brothers are disaffected and angry. Errol (Jonathan Ajayi) rages at society and that includes his mother and white girlfriend Shelley (Tilly Steele) - which doesn't make for comfortable viewing.

England is riddled with racism and prejudice, neither brother feels welcome or that it is the land of opportunity their mother believes. 

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Review: Woke, Battersea Arts Centre - powerful and atmospheric

Apphia Campbell gives a powerful and engaging performance and the play's message... is firmly nailed to the mast.

Woke New 1 photocredit MIHAELA BODLOVIC
Apphia Campbell, Woke. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic

Woke is an appropriate title for Apphia Campbell's play about what makes an activist and the battle for civil rights and.

She weaves together two stories, set in different time periods, contrasting the Black Panthers with Black Lives Matter to ask how far things have progressed.

First, we meet the naive - 'unwoke' - university fresher Ambrosia whose first semester coincides with the murder of Michael Brown by a white police officer which sparks social unrest near her college campus.

Views challenged

She's been brought up to believe that the law is just and justice will prevail until she meets Trey, the law student who challenges her views and inadvertently introduces her to the realities of the legal system for African Americans.

Then we meet Assata Shakur who, while a member of the Black Liberation Army in the 1970s, was jailed for shooting a police officer despite the prosecution case not having to prove that she actually fired the fatal shots. 

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