Lime Review - Theatre
Little Baby Jesus, Oval House Theatre
Let's cut to the chase, this play is an absolute gem and must be seen.
Through this wonderfully billed 'lyrical triptych of monologues', we learn about three London teenagers and witness a seminal moment in their young lives that mark their transition to adulthood.
Kehinde (Fiston Barek), the most overtly innocent of the piece, opens the play telling us of a former complex he had with his African identity and how it now manifests in his pursuit of light skinned girls who are coveted by other boys so as to validate his own worth even if he doesn't really fancy said girl. We all had the big-mouth clown that is Rugrat (Akemnji Ndifornyen) in our class, giving the teacher back chat not, in truth, primarily intended to get a laugh or undermine the teacher but detract from their struggle with the school work set. Then, there's Joanne (Seroca Davis), the pretty girl with a viper tongue seemingly the spoiled fruits of her uber confidence but her reality is that every evening she leaves school for home with the hesitation that only a turbulent home life evokes.
Little Baby Jesus is very much a character play; they steer the story and you will care about what happens to them almost immediately. The interweaving monologues of each character work because all are engaging; you enjoy the sudden interruption of one verse to welcome the next; all three draw you back in with equal measure. In a lesser script this would provoke annoyance or boredom, even confusion- not here.
The story telling is vivid in a way that is reminiscent of Matthew Dunster's brilliant You Can See the Hills. You'll recall the play believing you actually saw each of the many characters and scenes depicted.
The playwright Arinze Kene is truly a talent to watch. He has a gift with words and an attentive eye for detail that will have you leaving the theatre thinking of many of the observations. One word: 'magnets'. You'll see. The dialogue is written and delivered in a tongue i.e., slanguage that pretty much defines that of the inner city London youth but you will be taken aback by how clever and so frequently very beautiful it is.
This play is also belly achingly funny from the start and the laughs keep coming through the numerous anecdotes we are treated to but also offers poignancy and unforeseen moments of sadness.
Ché walker's directorship is immaculate. Walker steers what are the technical aspects of the play with a finish that is natural and deceptively simple for example, in moments throughout the play the actors subtly lend their actions or voices to the other monologues being told, this is a sparse feature executed to full effect impressively.
The cast make a great ensemble, each delivering a sterling performance with a vitality that seems to be the tapping of the inner teens they once were. Ndifornyen however must get a special mention for his Rugrat raises a smile every time I think of this play. Please, go and see this play before it finishes. While you're there buy the book, you'll be reading and re-reading it for weeks after the run is complete.
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