Home » London Theatre Reviews » Talawa Firsts on Tour – Fairfield Halls, Croydon | Review

Talawa Firsts on Tour – Fairfield Halls, Croydon | Review

Talawa is one of the UK’s outstanding black theatre companies championing black excellence in theatre over the past few years. In the past they’ve produced shows like the Olivier nominated A Place For We and the Offie winning production about local black classical composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Recognition. Their latest offering which is part of Talawa Firsts an annual programme which celebrates new works, is a double-bill, Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie and Love In Gravitational Ways.

Talawa Firsts on Tour
Talawa Firsts on Tour

The former opens the evening and is as unconventional as its title. Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie is a one man show performed superbly by the writer Kareem Parkins-Brown. Parkins-Brown plays a character called Kareem who’s a chef in  what could be a burger bar or possibly a fine dining restaurant or possibly both as Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie defies convention throughout. Kareem the character (or is that Kareem the writer/performer?) breaks the fourth wall throughout was he tells the story of the characters that either work in the kitchen or front of house including Ahmed the crazy front of house manager, Feletia, the Jesus loving Mary and the Boss’s Wife, all brought to life wonderfully by Parkins-Brown. Along the way there’s a ghost, a burping, and yawning oven and other surreal objects.

Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie is a genre defying, hybrid of a show part stand-up, part philosophy lecture (in a good way) and uses many theatrical devices that all mesh together somehow. There’s some superb lighting, odd video of kitchen scenes, on-screen chapter titles, singing, miming, dancing, freestyling (a type of rap) – all mixed together into a joyous, life-affirming theatrical stew. Parkins-Brown is a totally engaging performer that has the audience in the palm of his hand. At times it felt like we were at a gospel church service with the audience responding to Kareem giving it a call and response feel. Parkins-Brown is also a superb writer with every section tightly melting into the next. The section where he’s told his salary is being cut in half and how he can only live in half his flat but which half as the toilet is on one side and the kitchen on the other is hilarious. All in all Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie is a wonderful piece of theatre, superbly written, perfectly directed by Phillip J Morris and energetically performed by Kareem Parkins-Brown – a star in the making.

Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie is followed by Love In Gravitational Ways by acclaimed playwright Testament. This is a much more conventional piece of the theatre about the problems of dating these days having to use apps. It’s a two-hander performed by Anyebe Godwin and Kamilah Storey. They both play two characters but the main ones who hold the piece together are the naïve, working-class, out-of-towner Ishmael (played by Godwin) and the middle-class, aspirational Londoner, career professional Bronwyn (played by Storey). Ishmael is sweet and gentle and he’s no match for the sharp-tongued, sarcastic Bronwyn who’s just coming out of a relationship with a married man and is on the prowl for a new man. Along the way, we meet another couple of characters who become intertwined with Bronwyn and Ishmael but are secondary to the narrative and at times seem superfluous.

The problem with Love In Gravitational Ways is that it’s not saying anything that hasn’t been said before and their journey doesn’t really surprise the audience although there is an odd twist at the end that may have caught some of the audience by surprise, although it’s a little ambiguous. The direction unlike the piece that proceeds it isn’t as sharp as it should be with one of the characters having his back to the audience in one scene and other scenes where for some reason the characters are at the back of the stage speaking over background music that is too much to the foreground; there’s also some unnecessary moving around of furniture which distracted from the action.

The double bill is about to go on tour before heading back to Talawa’s home in Croydon in June and hopefully will find an audience who enjoy as much as the one I saw it with. Personally I’d swap the order around and then audiences would leave the theatre with big smile on their faces and the memory of Kareem Parkins-Brown, his energy, his cast of characters and their joyousness fresh in their minds.

5 Star Rating
Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie

3 Star Review
Love In Gravitational Ways

Review by Alan Fitter

Love in Gravitational Waves
Writer Testament
Director Brigitte Adela
Cast Anyebe Godwin and Kamilah Storey
Producer Samantha Nurse

Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie
Writer Kareem Parkins-Brown
Director Philip J Morris
Cast Kareem Parkins-Brown
Sound Lo-Wu Producer Samantha Nurse

https://talawa.com/

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