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Now, I See – Stratford East | Review

This comes across at face value as one of a thousand plays out there. A tragedy befalls a family, and in the aftermath, long-lost brothers come together. As the obligations of a wake and funeral dictate, they must spend time with one another in a confined space, and over the course of the evening, all sorts of truths come out about the characters’ pasts. After much resistance and justification as to why there can be no justice, or forgiveness, or love, or peace, proverbial walls are eventually broken down and there’s a deep and emotional reconciliation.

Now, I See at Stratford East. Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell.
Now, I See at Stratford East. Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell.

The outcome is as predictable as night follows day: one of these days, someone is going to write a family play in which X tells Y to (insert expletive) off and just walk away, leaving deep seated issues utterly unresolved. Not here: and anyway, as a Chelsea Pensioner once told me, it takes a man to cry. Adeyeye (Tendai Humphrey Sitima) had sickle cell disease. Not that he was cured by some faith healer or other, but that he died. Adeyeye was the middle brother, with the oldest, Kieron (Oliver Alvin-Wilson) expressing displeasure at the manner in which certain family members continue to judge and look down upon him, and the youngest, Dayo (Nnabiko Ejimofor) has a more sensitive and vulnerable disposition.

Kieron’s emphasis on channelling anger in a way that is a force for good extends to accepting the stereotype of black men as aggressive and confrontational. But this does not mean he is permanently outraged, or that he would scowl in response to someone saying ‘good morning’- and to prove the point, there are choreographed scenes recreating childhood memories, including the theme tune to the superhero television series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and ‘Under The Sea’ from The Little Mermaid.

Aside from giving the audience some comic relief from the otherwise dense and somewhat intense dialogue, the inclusion of such tunes and movements indicate a previous childhood confidence and assertiveness that has been replaced with trepidation or otherwise steely obstinance. For Kieron, there seems to be a requirement to keep up appearances – to be the archetypal family man and provider, and to never show weakness, continually defiant in the face of the likes of ‘Aunt Funke’, in the next room. No wonder, then, that he is incredulous at Dayo attending therapy sessions, and paying for them himself on account of NHS waiting lists.

Water is a recurring theme, and in the final moments, the characters undergo a baptism of sorts – not that they have converted to anything, but there is something about leaving the past behind and looking to the future with previously severed family ties repaired. The production does well to allow patrons, should they need it, a few moments after the curtain falls to sit quietly in the auditorium to reflect on such an emotionally deep and powerful show. There’s much food for thought in this part-play, part-dance, which contends that some conversations may be difficult, challenging and even unwanted, but are nonetheless worth having to clear the air.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

CAST
Kieron: Oliver Alvin-Wilson
Dayo: Nnabiko Ejimofor
Adeyeye: Tendai Humphrey Sitima

CREATIVES & PRODUCTION
Writer, Director, Movement Director – Lanre Malaolu
Scenographer – Ingrid Hu
Costume Designer – Debbie Duru
Lighting Designer – Ryan Day
Composer – Jan Brzezinski
Sound Designer – Pär Carlsson
Associate Director – Kirk-Ann Roberts
Assistant Choreographer – Rochea Dyer
Production Dramaturg – Roy Alexander Weise
Dramaturg – Anthony Simpson-Pike
Production Dramatherapist – Wabriya King
Costume Supervisor – Olivia Ward
Production Manager – Daniel Steward
Company Stage Manager – Vanessa Sutherland
Stage Manager on the book – Meghan Hodgson
Artist Collaboration – Joseph Ijoyemi

Two brothers reunite to honour their sibling’s life at a celebration of remembrance. As they grapple with their loss, they are forced to confront their shared past and long-standing estrangement. Following the sell-out run of SAMSKARA (The Yard), Now, I See brings together a powerful fusion of movement, song, and text to explore the challenge of forgiving yourself for a lifetime of suppressed emotion, while celebrating the profound bond of brotherhood and the resilience that can be found in joy.

NOW, I SEE
Stratford East
10 May to 1 June 2024
https://www.stratfordeast.com/

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