I was eagerly anticipating Dawn Again, with its promise of “a hilarious farce, where every line is rapped”. And it does begin well, with good pace and sharp dialogue. It is clear from the start where the drama lies. Elliot (played by rapper Claudio Elliston) has two girlfriends, Bella (Annie Foreman) and Helen (Rachel Goodacre). Having impregnated both, they are about to give birth on the same day in the same hospital. All is not as it seems, however, and there is another two-timer in their midst! This is revealed very early on but may have been more effective had it been unveiled later.
After a short while, the continuous loud music becomes far too intrusive, detracting from the enjoyment – the rapped dialogue seldom in time with the music. Whilst some of the dialogue is very funny and rhymed – “You should have thought of the future, two different babies in two different ladies” – at other times without the lyrical rhyming it feels too forced. It might have been more effective for only certain scenes to be rapped rather than the whole play.
There is a cast of six with two hospital beds and various props and, as is usual with a farce, actors exit and enter through different doors and so forth. But this fails to work effectively in such a small theatre space, and, at times, Elliot and Liz, the midwife (played excellently by Zara Cooke) could be seen lurking behind the back row of audience seats. A scene where the two girlfriends are lying in their respective hospital beds alongside each other, giving birth, when in fact they are supposed to be in separate rooms, although funny, lacks believability due to the set-up of the beds.
The piece becomes far more interesting when the pace slows, and we have access to Dawn and Helen’s individual thoughts about their upcoming births and situations. It’s particularly moving when Dawn calls her mother Linda (Cathy McManamon) for support, because she is feeling stressed and unsupported; Elliot being far too busy racing around trying to avoid being caught out! The two actors playing the girlfriends give stand out performances and the contrasts between their individual personalities is excellently drawn. Helen instructing Dawn and David (Ed Petrie) on her yoga moves is hilarious.
The piece does have an important message at its heart. Being set during Lockdown, Liz bemoans the fact that she is having to deliver both babies, as they are so understaffed in the NHS hospital. It also emphasises the point that MPs are prone to corruption and use their wealth to rid themselves of unnecessary problems. Ironically, at the end of the play, the person who has the most left-wing principles is the one who is prepared to be paid off. Whilst this is a good story with some fine comical moments, overall, the incessant rapping and loud music overpowered the piece and detracted from what could have been a sharper and more truthful play. The ending also felt rather abrupt. Dawn Again is crying out for better production values, a sharper script, less music, and less rapping!
Written by: Claudio Elliston (Cloudy Clouds)
Directed by: Rafaela Elliston
Produced by: Cloudy Productions
Dawn Again: A Rap Opera plays at King’s Head Theatre until 26 February. Further information and bookings can be found here.