Arinze Kene’s new play is set in Deptford in the early 1980s, in the wake of the Brixton riots. Chima returns home after a ten-year stretch in prison to find that his younger brother, Onochie, barely recognises him. Though both are mixed race Onochie has taken to dressing like a skinhead – complete with oxblood bovver boots – and he flinches whenever his brother mentions his blackness. He’s also flirting with Holly, the white girl next door.
Kene’s play is at its best depicting the complex relationship between the estranged brothers, a volatile mixture of affection and resentment. He also explores the issue of racial identity from the perspective of someone of mixed race, capturing Onochie’s conflicted feelings about who he is and where he belongs in this world. The tentative relationship with Holly is nicely drawn with a surprising amount of humour, but the drama goes off the boil the more Kene tries to ratchet up the tension.
Revelations about Chima’s past arrive too late in the day and feel oddly anticlimactic.
As the tone of Michael Buffong’s production grows more frantic it also becomes less plausible. It’s at its best when it is more observational, aided by Ellen Cairns’ detailed recreation of a suitably ugly 1980s kitchen, and strong performances of Ash Hunter as the hot-headed Onochie, Kingsley Ben-Adir as his calmer, worldlier brother and the excellent Ria Zmitrowicz as the gobby yet essentially good-hearted Holly.