“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore” – Andre Gide
Like most young black men, having dreams bigger than their reality is a means of survival. In the summer holidays of Lewisham, South London teenager Corey waits for his A-level results, by hanging out with his friends and eating Morley’s as if his life depended on it. His safety net is secure, but then Jodie enters Corey’s life and his world starts to unravel – the rose-tinted glasses have been taken off. Corey is forced to decide whether he will swim out of the fish tank of life, that he has been trapped in for a brighter future or remain caged in his borough with his questionable friends.
Gamba Cole (Outlaws) is the leading role in the one-man play. Delivers a strong performance and lands comedy points with ease even when the play does not go to plan. Cole is able to command an audience and engage with their emotions. This coming-of-age narrative was directed by Almeida Theatre Resident Director T.D Moyo (Caste-Ing), Moyo leaves a raw and relatable mark on the play. Though the set was not depicted as in the original play script, setting the play in a kitchen conveys the growth of Corey, trading chicken shops for home cooking. One downfall was the excessive use of haze/smoke on stage. At first, it appeared to symbolize the pressure Corey was going through as well as the smoke and mirrors that clouded Corey’s judgment. But at many points in the play, the haze engulfed the whole theatre making all of the stage, and half of the audience invisible. Resulting in difficulty breathing. Gratefully, this subsided towards the end of the play. But this was a preview performance, I believe fine-tuning was imminent.
Written by Corey Bovell, the story is able to tackle the hard-hitting themes of knife crime and gang violence in a wholesome way. Bovell mixes music, rap, and spoken word poetry to express the rollercoaster of love and life. There is a clear sense of authenticity in the narrative and realism in the characters. Bovell is a maverick in conceptualizing gritty London and making it familiar. This is a strong production and works like this make us eager to see what he will produce next.
Corey Bovell’s comedic, nostalgic, and fast-paced slice-of-life story deals with growing up in South London, gang rivalry, its history, and the impact gentrification has on young black culture. After a good run at Brixton House, this is a play you would not want to miss if another run is on the cards.
Copies of the playscript are available on Amazon.