- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Queen of Chapeltown review at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds – ‘affectionate and celebratory’

Elexi Walker in Queen of Chapeltown at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Notting Hill may receive all the media attention, but there’s another equally long-running August Bank Holiday carnival celebrating Caribbean culture held in Leeds every year.

The Leeds Carnival, marking its 50th anniversary this year, is the subject of Colin Grant’s affectionate and celebratory play. Queen of Chapeltown was written by Grant after spending nearly 10 hours interviewing the founder members of the carnival – taking these interviews and shaping them into something that’s halfway between verbatim theatre and naturalistic dialogue.

It tells the story of four Caribbean immigrants who arrived in Leeds in the mid 1960s to encounter an England simmering with racism and resentment and form the Carnival as a way to bring the community together.

There’s a lot to fit in here in just over an hour, but the writing and performances are witty and warm. The easy banter between Raphael Bushay, Benjamin Cawley and Gabriel Paul is entertaining, but it’s Elexi Walker’s strong, determined Beverley who sticks in the memory, especially during a glorious dance routine to Nina Simone’s Four Women.

Emma Williams’ rich costumes aside, this is a no-frills production, the scaffolding set doubling up as a Chapeltown bedsit – but there’s a huge amount of heart in Grant’s dialogue and characters.

The ending feels slightly rushed, but when the steel drums kick in and ticker tape falls from the ceiling, the carnival atmosphere is palpable.

 

Verdict
Amy Leach and Colin Grant bring some Caribbean spirit to West Yorkshire with this affectionate history of the Leeds Carnival

Production

Production
Queen of Chapeltown
Venue
West Yorkshire Playhouse
City
Leeds
Starts
September 13, 2017
Ends
September 15, 2017
Press night
September 13, 2017
Authors
Colin Grant
Director
Amy Leach
Set
Emma Williams
Sound
Stella Litras,John Biddle
Cast includes
Elexi Walker, Raphael Bushay, Emily Butterfield, Benjamin Cawley, Gabriel Paul
Producer
West Yorkshire Playhouse
Running time
1 hr 5 mins