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Scene, Camden People’s Theatre – Review

Pros: Sharp dialogue intelligently addresses difficult issues with a wonderfully warm and light-hearted tone.

Cons: An occasional few nervous jitters came through, but these merely added to the sincerity of the piece.

Pros: Sharp dialogue intelligently addresses difficult issues with a wonderfully warm and light-hearted tone. Cons: An occasional few nervous jitters came through, but these merely added to the sincerity of the piece. Ayo, a captivating, earnest black girl, and Flo, a passionate and bookish white girl, have been a couple since they were students and shared a shy first kiss at a club. A few years later they are living in their overpriced flat in present-day Peckham, where they argue about films and share falafel wraps. Their bond and love is unquestionable, growing stronger as they develop as creatives individually…

Summary

Rating

Outstanding

Beautifully nuanced writing negotiates issues of racial, gender and sexual identity, weaving through the very truest of love stories to break the audience’s heart again and again (in the best of ways).

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Ayo, a captivating, earnest black girl, and Flo, a passionate and bookish white girl, have been a couple since they were students and shared a shy first kiss at a club. A few years later they are living in their overpriced flat in present-day Peckham, where they argue about films and share falafel wraps. Their bond and love is unquestionable, growing stronger as they develop as creatives individually and become more entwined as artists. Yet their relationship is plagued by ever-present difficulties: the issues of race that cannot be avoided in an interracial partnership; the homophobia they experience as a queer couple; the inability of Flo’s mother to accept her daughter’s sexuality and long-term relationship. Perhaps most difficult of all, they share a creeping realisation that maybe their lives can never truly take the same path. In an attempt to grow as artists and as a couple, they decide to write a play about their relationship…

The brilliance of SCENE is in how it subtly blends the past and the present to create an ongoing narrative of identity. As they grow and learn together, the characters own their identity, they own their space, they own the right to question what anyone else thinks of them. Some scenes absolutely blaze with the power of their words, particularly in some of Ayo’s monologues. She stares unflinchingly at the audience as she delivers line after line on what it means to be a black person in Great Britain, what she personally risks to walk down the street holding her girlfriend’s hand. Her words are so impactful that the audience were visibly nodding their agreement almost without pause. The script is powerful and many of those watching clearly connected with it. The piece explores the nuances of race and gender issues through bitter flashbacks to arguments and chilling anecdotes of homophobic violence. The realism is layered and subtle, achieving a mesmerising outcome that feels refreshingly pure in its naked honesty.

Yet the depth of the play is achieved not just through its well-crafted presentation of painful issues. It is authentic and thought-provoking, balancing the experiences of each character to create an intersectional dialogue. It is also genuinely hilarious, delivering a witty portrait of a twenty-something couple living in London. And isn’t that what makes a relationship? The arguments alongside the laughter? For this play, to me, is about the actors’ relationship. Every argument, every anecdote of an offensive comment from a parent, I read as personal experience. If my interpretation is incorrect, that is just testament to the passion behind the creation.

The other elements of the play, though minimal, are seamless. Costume and props are barely noticeable or mentionable, so well do they form the background. The lighting is simple, yet appropriate and beautiful, falling on Ayo and Flo as they deliver their monologues. For a first production, Black Girl / White Girl have nailed it. See this play if you can, it truly deserves attention. It will generate a conversation around so many issues, but above all, it will leave you with a feeling of radical hope and a surge of joy.

Authors and Directors: Lola Olufemi and Martha Kirsh
Producer: Black Girl / White Girl
Box Office: Camden People’s Theatre (020 7419 4841)
Booking Link: https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/scene/
Booking Until: April 14 2018

About Louise Gill