I have to say I was irritated by the way the actors took their bow at the end of this production. The reason being that I along with many others wanted to get on my feet and give them a standing ovation but they bowed for about 3 seconds, barely acknowledged the applause and left.
So, let me tell you more about why I wanted to cheer. This is an incredibly well told story that weaves together many innovative theatrical techniques, use of screens, visuals, precordings with an incredible story of redemption and courage. It grips you. I expected it from the pre-show literature to be grim, grim, grim. The literature tells you its tough, the central character sells drugs, gets stabbed, gets shot. But, although this is central to the story, its not what I was left thinking about. I felt during the play that I was watching a wonderful, articulate friendship between the two actors:
Caleb Femi and Lex Amor. They challenge each other, work brilliantly together and bring out the best in each other.
These two are not actors but you would not know it from how they worked on the stage and the clarity with which they spoke – you could hear every word. Paper Birds have done a fantastic job in the staging.
I learnt some of the secrets of education, heard some wonderful poetry and was left admiring someone who can turn terrible circumstances into something so positive and who has the courage to follow their dreams. Caleb was the Young People’s Laureate for London between 2016 and 2018 – he is making it as a poet.
I was also left thinking that the experience of migration – Caleb was born in Nigeria, leads to much questioning about identity and culture. The insights gained from the challenge of moving countries can surely create great art.
So, its really worth making a trip to the fabulous Battersea Arts Centre to see it or to look out for other venues, if it goes on tour. You leave the theatre feeling uplifted.