cheeky little brown – Stratford East, London

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writer: Nkenna Akunna

Director: Chinonyerem Odimba

90 minutes is a long old time for one actor to hold the stage, and it’s a long old time to tell a single, simple story with occasional deviations to talk about kebabs and night buses. Tiajna Amayo makes a brave stab at it, but her perkiness begins to get a bit wearing after a while, and she has nowhere near enough range to hit the emotional climax, nor the versatility to play multiple characters. The result is a solo actor having conversations with herself in alternating left and right profiles. It isn’t strong enough to make the points the writer, Nkenna Akunna, has in mind, and the manner in which the emotional reveals are telegraphed doesn’t help anyone.

What we get from this entertainment is a lot of cuteness, some pleasant singing, and a sense of inclusion in the world of black girls on the lash. It’s more than enough to send the audience at the Theatre Royal Stratford East into raptures, and every sassy remark is greeted with howls of laughter, but it is still pretty thin fare, and the insights on offer are not overly insightful. Throwing up is also a comic highlight, which is hilarious or not, according to taste.

Lady (Tiajna Amayo) is going to the birthday party of her bestie Gemma. Gemma has been her bestie since they were five, and even though now they have both gone to different universities and Gemma has acquired a set of new friends, Lady isn’t giving up on the relationship. Her presence at the party is not altogether welcome, and she drinks way too much in an attempt to soothe the hurt of rejection.

Lady disgraces herself and has to make a long journey home by night bus, which journey she interrupts to get a kebab. Doner kebabs may be the ‘cheeky little browns’ of the title, kebabs and/or feisty girls like Lady, it isn’t altogether clear. The morning after is a time of revelation and regret, and the telling of truths. All that, plus a set devoted to shiny balloons and a few wheeled-on set elements, leaves a lot for the actor to do. She defines locale, she presents characters, she explores extreme emotional states, and every so often she whips a radio mic out of her handbag and sings about her feelings.

The company, tiata fahodzi, is dedicated to showcasing emerging African talent, which is laudable. This particular show does, however, seem to feature a raft of inexperienced theatre makers. The energy is apparent, but the finesse and effective emotional arcs are lacking.

Runs until 20 April 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Pleasant Perky Perfunctory

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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