Femi Oguns’ first play, in which he also stars, tackles the issue of divisive prejudices between Caribbeans and Africans within the black British community. Oguns plays David, a young graphic designer, the apple of his family’s eye. With parents at home in Nigeria, David has been effectively raised by his dominant older sister Kemi, a powerhouse of a woman, splendidly played by Yetunde Oduwole. Kemi violently disapproves of David’s relationship with Natasha, who is of Jamaican descent, as does Natasha’s father Malcolm - another towering performance, this time from Brad Damon - of her relationship with an African.
Essentially a Romeo and Juliet saga, the strength of this play comes from its vibrant wit and colourful personalities. Kemi’s storming denunciations of Jamaicans, accompanied by spattered Nigerian exclamations, are comic in their vitriol. Damon’s tirades against Nigerians, interspersed with choice insults, are equally uproarious.
Comic stereotypes aside, several moments of poignancy bear the play’s point home well. A particularly compelling scene occurs early on, when Tobi Bakare’s likeable Young Boy asks for some bus information from Malcolm, only to be met with hostility. Sheri-An Davis is delightful in her earnest faith in her love and defiance of her father, while Oguns is deeply affecting in his despair.
The entire cast shine, with stand-out performances even in the supporting roles, such as Lovelace Akpojaro as Kemi’s fiance, and Bikiya Graham-Douglas, with Emmy Margaret Fyles, as Natasha’s friends Bola and Kirsty.
The only time this production loses momentum is in the love scenes, which can seem rather clunky compared to the vibrancy of the rest. Love often says less rather than more, and at times there can be too much exposition of feeling in David and Natasha’s relationship, in lieu of actual emotion. This, however, is a minor complaint in an otherwise lively and relevant new play. Oguns has made a powerful debut.