The Theatreguide.London Review
Donmar Theatre Autumn 2023
Lynn Nottage’s 2021 funny and sometimes moving play Clyde’s, directed by Lynette Linton, is set in the kitchen of Clyde’s Sandwich Shop where a group of four formerly incarcerated employees prepare the food.
Rafael (Reza Salazar), who now calls himself a sous-chef, spent time inside prison for holding up a bank with a BB gun while on drugs.
Letitia (Ronke Adekoluejo) broke into a pharmacy to get some desperately needed medication for her baby daughter. She got caught when she decided to steal 'some oxy and addy to sell on the side'.
The third employee to arrive on the impressively designed set is freshly released from prison Jason (Patrick Gibson), a character who committed his crime in Lynn Nottage’s highly successful 2015 play Sweat.
Still bearing the scary facial tattoos (in part racist) that he adopted after the steel plant where he worked closed down, he says he is deeply ashamed of what he did. He is now homeless, sleeping in a tent and not instantly a hit with the others.
Boss Clyde (Gbemisola Ikumelo) herself did time inside prison as a result of her husband being killed during sex because she forgot the safe word. Her only concern seems to be the debt she owes some dubious people for opening the place.
Not only is she disrespectful to the others, but at one point sexually feels one of the group without consent and tells them if they don’t behave she can always report them to a probation officer.
It might have been a grim story, but the kitchen staff, encouraged by the Zen-like wise older employee Montrellous (Giles Terera), are constantly dreaming up sensational sandwiches.
A newspaper reports that 'The place may seem unremarkable on the outside, but the long lines of truckers reveal the truth. The sandwiches in this greasy spoon are sublime.'
The reason for his prison time is revealed late in the play but earlier we are given a hint by Rafael who says he 'heard that he went to prison on principle. It was like an act of rebellion. He willfully chose to confront the evil…. prison industrial complex from the inside.'
Montrellous's language as he describes new experimental sandwiches is at times lyrical. Giles Terera gives a very fine performance as a creative inspiring employee who helps to shape an unofficial collective pride amongst the group.
It will encourage an act of defiant solidarity triggered by the simple demand of Clyde asking each, in turn, to add relish to a Montrellous creation.
This uplifting play, well performed by a good cast, is generally amusing and sensitive in its depiction of its characters. The show is well worth seeing.
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