Yo-yo-ing from funny to moving, this debut play by journalist Bim Adewunmi drops you slap-bang in the middle of a looming argument between a Nigerian family in east London.
Brian — a smooth, cocksure American — is invited to feast for the first time with his girlfriend’s mischievous sisters. Tormented and challenged, things are tough-going for Brian: but these two are plain-sailing compared to their mother, who shows up unannounced.
What starts as a comedic ‘boy meets family’ narrative turns into something more meaningful when the family is forced to face the reason why the boyfriend had been kept hidden for so long: the mother’s hoarding habits. While the newbie boyfriend hides in the kitchen, the audience is drawn into the airing of this family’s dirty laundry.
This play presents a familiar story of when children are ashamed of their own parents: ‘What about my dreams?’ asks the mother. It cleverly swaps the familiar embarrassing ‘meet the parents’ narrative with one that takes the parents’ feelings into account and gives them their deserved airtime.
All characters in this play are incredibly spirited and believable, but as soon as mother (played by Eastenders star Ellen Thomas) swaggers in, you know you’re in for a treat. From expert comedy delivery — ‘Stop talking crazy, there are no crazy people in my lineage’ — to the portrayal of what can only be perceived as genuine hurt, Ellen Thomas is an absolute joy to watch.
Not a bad debut for this journalist and blogger. We’d love to see more.
Hoard, Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL. Tickets from £15, until 8 June 2019.
Last Updated 24 May 2019