Pros: A relevant, relatable premise and interesting characters.
Cons: Too many issues, too little time.
Boujie (an abbreviation of bourgeoisie, AKA middle class) is the first show by Unshaded Arts, a new theatre company that aims to tell relatable stories from the perspective of people who are not part of the majority. The company’s debut focuses on successful entertainment blogger Devin, who is having a housewarming party at his swanky new flat and has invited his best friends: stressed out nurse Dahlia, coasting council worker Joslyn, and disgruntled City boy Courtney who has just quit his banking job on a whim. Each is struggling with their own personal and professional difficulties, but all is going well until the party is crashed by posh neighbour Giles and Devin’s slightly unhinged sister Giselle. And with money suddenly becoming the topic of conversation, the friends find out they don’t know one another as well as they might have thought.
Boujie starts from an interesting premise by looking at what happens when career choices and (lack of) financial success start interfering in friendships: many young Londoners will grimace in recognition at some of the situations playwright Hassan Govia has conjured. Not content to leave it at that, however, Govia also has his characters addressing a range of Big Issues, including but not limited to racism, Brexit, class discrimination, sexism, the commercialisation of the media and the effects of neoliberal capitalism. Discussing these with any kind of nuance would have already been a wildly ambitious aim in a full-length play, let alone in Boujie’s modest 90-minute run time. As a result, most of these topics are only touched upon very fleetingly, and the dialogue does some bizarre see-sawing between unnuanced political statements (‘the news is a machine feeding us syndicated shit’) and cringeworthy small talk (The two men on Dahlia and Joslyn: ‘They’re such prick teases’ – ‘That’s why they’re our friends’).
The characters are interesting and fairly well-rounded, and Devin in particular has an engaging complexity about him that comes out towards the end of the play. The storyline as a whole, however, does not have the same level of intricacy; the ‘moral’ at the end of the show has all the subtlety of a brick to the face. There are a couple of good performances, including Govia himself as Devin and Maria Yarjah as Joslyn, but the overall quality of the acting is uneven.
With Boujie, Unshaded have successfully achieved some of their aims: at its core, it’s a relevant and relatable story, and it’s great to see a cast on stage that’s 5/6 non-white instead of the other way around for a change. It might not be the best debut ever, but there definitely is promise here and I look forward to finding out what’s next for this young company.
Written by: Hassan Govia
Directed by: Zoe Morris
Produced by: Unshaded Arts
Box Office: 020 7835 2301
Booking Link: http://www.draytonarmstheatre.co.uk/boujie
Booking Until: 8th December 2018