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Boujie at the Drayton Arms Theatre | Review

Boujie - Alessa Davison Photography
Boujie – Alessa Davison Photography

I’m not ashamed of turning to the Urban Dictionary for straightforward explanations of terms I’m not familiar with. What does Boujie mean? Apparently, it’s a shortened form of ‘bourgeoisie’, and one of the contributed definitions is succinct: “Of or pertaining to someone who is not only pretentious but believes themselves to be financially and physically superior. Those who succumb to elitist ideals.” This isn’t an entirely accurate description of Devin (Hassan Govia), who has moved into a serviced luxury apartment in central London, to which he has invited a close selection of friends, presumably for a housewarming celebration.

It isn’t long, however, before things are less than celebratory. Devin is being nagged within the first scene by Dahlia (Natali Servat), who admonishes him to get the place tidied up, especially if he’s having people around – in the last scene he is henpecked by his sister Giselle (Cristal Cole), who stubbornly continues to maintain ties with Devin, to a degree because there are potential benefits for her if she can tie in to what he does for a living.

Devin’s friend Courtney (Peter Silva), meanwhile, discovers by accident, Devin’s statement of account (he still gets paper ones in the post). Devin’s bank balance is far, far healthier than he has been letting on.

The use of an off-stage balcony allows for certain characters to be absent from certain scenes and sections of dialogue, such that, overall, the audience knows more than any one character. There is a bizarre moral objection to Devin having a high income. At the risk of giving too much away, it is made entirely legitimately, through (as I understood it) advertising and sponsorship relating to a website he runs that contains news and features from the music industry. He is not a gambling business tycoon, a casino operator, or a drug dealer: when Giles (Freddy Gaffney) suggests he can put Devin in touch with people who can supply substances to be snorted, Devin is immediately dismissive, not because he has contacts of his own, but simply because he doesn’t happen to indulge in that sort of activity.

Telling Devin what he should or should not do with his money reminded me of details of the lifestyle enjoyed by Sir Elton John, revealed in a court case in 2000. The tabloids leached onto one amount in particular – the £293,000 he spent on flowers between January 1996 to September 1997. There were indeed other things and charitable enterprises he could have spent that money on, but in the end, it was his prerogative to use his funds as he saw fit, within, of course, the law. Here, there is inevitably some jealousy at Devin’s lifestyle – he makes some intriguing observations about whom he terms ‘working class people’, who, he asserts, generally speaking, lack ambition, spending too much time being relieved that their lives aren’t as bad or as difficult as the plight of some other people, instead of aspiring to something better than the status quo.

Giles, the play’s token white guy, so to speak, lives in an adjacent apartment, but appears so culturally insensitive that even after several hints and crystal-clear body language from the others, Devin has to tell him to leave his apartment before the penny drops. A late plot twist reveals why he knows so much about Devin aside from being a visitor to his website. A lot of topics and themes are brought to the table in this single-act production, which helps to maintain interest, although not everything discussed flows naturally as part of an ongoing conversation between friends and acquaintances. There is a sudden digression, for instance, into mainstream news and international current affairs over champagne in a front room.

The show provides a different perspective on how affluence can affect behaviour, and those conversations some people have about what they would do and how they would live if they won the lottery may well be better informed as a result of seeing a production like this one. Money may not change things, but money changes people, and people change things. This intense and intriguing production is a good effort, particularly for a debut play.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Set in a luxury London apartment, Boujie is a lively, comedic examination of the impact of professional and financial success on personal relationships. 

Boujie, which will run at the Drayton Arms Theatre from November 20th-December 8th 2018.

Cristal Cole (Giselle)
Freddy Gaffney (Giles)
Hassan Govia (Devin)
Natali Servat (Dahlia)
Peter Silva (Courtney)
Maria Yarjah (Joslyn)

Hassan Govia – Playwright
Zoe Morris – Director
Giuliana Davolio – Set and Costume
Aslihan Gulen – Lighting
Pascal Rassaby – Sound
Producer – Unshaded Arts


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