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Gone Too Far

by on 29 March 2023

Relay Race

Gone Too Far

by Bola Agbaje

National Youth Theatre Rep Company at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, until 1st April

Review by Eleanor Lewis

An errand to the corner shop to buy milk and a scrambled journey through the rest of that day’s events on a housing estate in Peckham don’t immediately scream Entertaining Plot Line with Wide Ranging Cultural Education and Lots of Comedy, but that is the basis of Bola Agbaje’s excellent play Gone Too Far, and it works a treat. 

Two brothers are dispatched by their irritated mother (Jessica Enemokwu) to fetch milk and while on this mission they encounter a kaleidoscope of racism, confusion, resentment and rage amounting to a general struggle for identity and validation everywhere they look.  Issues pop up at every turn: social media’s current fave, the white, middle-aged ‘Karen’ appears, wearing her assumptions on her sleeve; the Police make recognisable fools of themselves; the local gang leader occupies a fatherly role, giving thoughtful lessons in respecting each other, but sells drugs to anyone who’ll buy, including the pitifully vulnerable. 

As such, there is worthy material for dramatic consideration but this is so much more entertaining than that.  The brothers Yemi and Ikudayisi are expertly played, respectively by Jerome Scott and Dalumuzi Moyo.  So authentic are they that you can feel the effect of their backstory on them. Yemi was born and brought up in London, he’s the younger brother.  Ikudayisi, raised in Nigeria, has just returned home to Peckham so these two have cultural identity issues alongside the everyday older-younger sibling stuff.   The development of their relationship over the course of their big day perhaps represents the eventual coming together of all of the people at odds that they meet, or it may just represent their coming to terms with each other, but it works either way.

Unavoidable (in a good way) is the character Armani, a familiar mess of personal insecurities masked by a cast iron carapace of Princess With Attitude.  Armani is mixed-race but is allowing no discussion at all, ever, from anyone, about her place in the scheme of things and her Jamaican heritage, that is until she’s presented with a set of harsh home truths by her friend Paris.  Both women are strikingly well played by Keziah Campbell-Golding who has without doubt the showier role as Armani but plays it with bucketloads of aplomb, and Hannah Zoé Ankrah as Paris, a perfect foil to her fragile yet aggressive friend.  Tuesday night’s audience was almost participating in the encounters between these two, gasps and groans at every utterance evincing a fully committed viewing public.   

The rest of the equally skilled cast, played a variety of roles.  An elegant drag queen (Tomás Azocar-Nevin) flaunted himself at the audience in a ‘you think I care what you think?’ way.  A busker (Jack D’Arcy) entertained the audience during the interval and led them naturally into the second act.  This is not intense theatre or a close examination of multicultural issues, it is a short tour and it communicates, which is its strength. 

Constant movement on Madeleine Boyd’s building site set together with Adam King’s atmospheric lighting and steam, gave London’s ‘melting pot’ identity a presence as a work in progress but with the promise of something beautiful as the final product with balletic scene changes effected by people gracefully choreographed and wearing hi-vis and helmets. 

The whole thing rattled along at a great pace but never too fast for clarity under Monique Tuoko’s seamless direction.

The final scene with its cute visual touch (no spoilers here) is not so much a love letter to London, as a ‘well, we have issues but on balance I’ll stick with you’ kind of a note.  Pure Peckham, pure London, warts and all.  This is one of the most engaging, witty and above all, positive, works I have seen for some time.  It’s guaranteed entertainment which is great news for GCSE students as it is now a set text.  Highly recommended.

Eleanor Lewis, March 2023

Photography by Isha Shah

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