Posts Tagged ‘Bayo Gbadamosi’

Just five weeks after seeing his UK debut Octoroon at the Orange Tree Theatre, there I was at Hampstead Theatre seeing the entirely different but just as impressive Gloria, which does prove Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a major new playwriting talent, though how I’m going to write about this one without spoiling it I don’t know………

We’re with the ‘assistants’ in the outer office of a magazine publisher where everyone seems to be playing politics to further their careers, except long-serving Lorin in the next office and Gloria, who everyone seems to see as a bit weird. Dean is the only one who went to Gloria’s party the night before, and he only went because he thought the others were going. We’re lulled into a false sense of security until there’s a major incident in the office as Act I closes. When we return we meet two of the characters from Act One, and another we hadn’t seen, to see how they are responding to earlier events and how they, and the world, reacts to and processes such things in this day and age. It ends very suddenly, perhaps too suddenly.

The change of tone is indeed dramatic, from everyday life in a modern office to cynical, tasteless exploitation of events. Like Octoroon, its structurally clever and very unpredictable. They make a big thing of avoiding spoilers, to the point of sealing four pages of the programme which you can have broken by the ushers at the interval; a theatrical first, I think. Michael Longhurst’s staging and Lizzie Clachan’s design serve the play well and there are six fine actors, three of which play two roles and two play three. I first saw Kae Alexander in Kiss Me Kate in her final year at GSMD, then she impressed me in the Open Air Theatre’s Peter Pan, now she’s hugely impressive as both Kendra and Jenna. Bayo Gbadamosi impresses too in three very different roles as intern, barista and media darling.

I’m now waiting for his next play with more than a touch of anticipation.

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This co-production with Johannesburg’s Market Theatre covers new ground in examining post-apartheid South Africa. I found Mongiwekhaya’s play both original and fascinating.

Ben and Skinn are stopped by the police on suspicion of drink driving. Ben is a young black university student. He doesn’t speak an African language. He wasn’t even born when apartheid ended. Skinn is a young white South African girl, much more streetwise and edgy. Officer Buthelezi, a former freedom fighter, who has stopped them, has both personal issues and a resentment of aspects of the new South Africa.

Back in the police station, Ben seeks to assert his rights whilst Buthelezi makes it clear what he thinks of young black people behaving like whites, rather violently, whilst his colleagues collude or turn a blind eye. We learn more about his personal issues as the power games unfold inside the police station and Skinn begins a search for Ben outside it, after an initial false trail set by Buthelezi.

We don’t hear much about post-apartheid social impact in the black community, which makes the piece particularly welcome. To its credit, it seeks to explain rather than take sides, though Buthelezi is an unsympathetic character and Ben a sympathetic one, both played passionately by Desmond Dube and Bayo Gbadamosi respectively. I also very much admired  Jordan Baker’s performance as the brittle Skinn. This is actress Noma Dumezweni’s directorial debut and her staging draws you in, in this intimate space.

Good to see an international collaboration like this at the Royal Court. Recommended.

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