I was led to believe Tonight I’ll Be April dealt with the subject of domestic violence suffered by men. It certainly did that, but there was even more to it than that in this sophisticated look at the relationship between April (Josephine Samson) and Michael (Larry Olubamiwo) that held my attention throughout, despite a pace that was a tad too slow for me. It was gripping enough to make me want to shout, “Get out! Get out now!” at Michael as yet another volley of abuse came his way – but, this not being a pantomime, I settled for being on the edge of my seat instead.
Dramaturgically speaking, it’s excellent, with scenes of varied length interspersed with monologues. The soliloquies, to be more precise, were often in verse, packing in quite a lot of thoughts into relatively few words, as poetry often does. The scenes cut to blackout, thank goodness, before anything becomes too violent, though some may wish to argue this is just as difficult an experience, if not more so, than if the play had otherwise contained ‘scenes which some patrons may find distressing’. In the seconds of silence in the blackouts, the audience is left to imagine what is going on, whereas a full scale enactment, while painful to witness, at least would have given clarity to the severity of the abuse. On balance, though, I think it’s better not to see it than to see it.
I am reminded of a parody I came across some years ago. A stand-up performer described what she termed a ‘typical’ guest on The Jerry Springer Show. After detailing a number of exaggerated and (thankfully) fictional incidents including being physically scalded and public verbal humiliation, the guest was then described as finally saying, “And then I knew. I had to go!” as though she were rather absurd for not having ‘known’ at an earlier stage not to tolerate such behaviour. Whether Michael was as ridiculous is left for the audience to deduce, as the final scene is skilfully ambiguous in its ending.
It is not all doom and gloom, mostly because of April’s ever-changing attitude, which flits between torturing Michael and borderline worshipping him. There’s a reason why ‘April’ is also listed in the programme as ‘Jos’, ‘Rachael’, ‘Carmel’, ‘Maxine’ and ‘Sylvia’, which is eventually blurted out and becomes the ‘critical incident’ in the play, such that it ceases to be a single-issue script. It also allows for April’s character development – as well as Michael’s, so the audience comes away with a thorough understanding of both people. April’s most spirited scene so very nearly reaches melodrama; judging by the reaction of a few in the audience it may have crossed the line for them.
The problem here, as Michael explains in a soliloquy, is that he loves April, and at one point, their relationship was very warm and affectionate. And while he’s very good at bleating on at April getting help (to the point where, to be blunt, some of the payback he gets for pushing the issue is somewhat justified), he’s not forthcoming in any sense of the word when it comes to getting help for his own situation, stupid man.
I did like how convincing both characters were, and loved seeing a show where I wasn’t having to work hard to keep track of events – hurrah, a new play whose scenes are in chronological order – ‘Wednesday’ comes before ‘Friday’! Some key issues in society are deftly dealt with, without resorting to lecturing the audience, and rightly, the solutions to dealing with abuse and mental illness are far from clear cut. I can’t say I enjoyed it – I doubt I was meant to – but this play is a fine attempt at exploring previously exposed problems from a different angle.
Review by Chris Omaweng
asme Productions presents
Tonight I’ll be April
Written by Teresa Yanzu and Josephine Samson. Directed by Joshua Jewkes. Performed by Josephine Samson and Larry Olubamiwo
Domestic abuse will affect 1 in 6 men in their lifetime yet it is least likely to be reported to the police. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year; the controversial dissociative identity disorder splits many healthcare professionals with some believing it is real whilst others don’t. This April, asme Productions presents its first play, a new piece of writing exploring these two big issues. Using a blend of dramatisation and poetry Josephine Samson and Larry Olubamiwo present two characters (April and Michael) and their struggle for mental peace in this hard-hitting piece of topical theatre with national relevance.
Synopsis: April and Michael take their relationship to the next level by moving in together but before long, April finds it difficult to keep her secret hidden from the man she loves. When what seems to be fleeting mood swings put Michael at the receiving end of abuse, he makes a choice that seals his fate.
Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High Street, NW1 7BU
19th – 23rd April at 7.30pm; 24th April at 6.30pm
Book tickets online: