Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Shine review at Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – ‘a sharply observed coming-of-age story’

Kema Sikazwe in Shine at Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Live Theatre associate artist Kema Sikazwe’s autobiographical solo piece mixes gig theatre with memoir. Utilising his talents as a rapper and singer, the play is anchored by his immensely personable performance.

Sikazwe’s family moved from Zambia to Newcastle when he was three years old, and Shine is at its sharpest when cataloguing the challenges of relocation: the dashed expectations of an England where everyone drinks tea in mansions, the stress of being desperate to fit in when your race instantly marks you out as different, the conflict of trying to carve out a life in his new home when his much-loved mother yearns to return to a country he barely knows.

Director Graeme Thompson makes good use of Sikazwe’s considerable charm. He’s a delightful performer, whether addressing the audience directly or switching deftly between characters to illustrate his tales. Emma Bailey’s neon-heavy design provides a suitably clubby backdrop to the music. Although the piece could be more polished, this slightly scratch-night feel works well given the youth of its star.

Shine milks the culture clash for laughs, but doesn’t shy away from the grimmer realities of racism and isolation that drove Sikazwe to teenage violence and his brother to drugs. These elements could do with more exploring: some of the songs feel a little pat. Though the central message of self-belief feels abruptly arrived at, leaving much of the story untold, it is undeniably uplifting.

Joe Douglas on becoming Live Theatre’s new artistic director: ‘I want us to be a real developer of talent’

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Sharply observed cross-cultural coming-of-age story elevated by a charismatic performance