Bush Theatre Summer 2018
Winsome Pinnock's play didn't have much new to say even when it first appeared in 1987. What was new was who it said it about and who it spoke to, and therein, even three decades later, lies all its considerable dramatic and comic power.
Pinnock's characters are first- and second-generation Jamaicans in Britain, and part of her message is that much of their experience is shared with other culture-crossers.
The immigrants retain strong emotional, religious and cultural ties with the old country while recognising that they have become the 'English' side of the family and could never really go back.
And at the same time they are aware – to the point of not having to talk about it – of the extent to which they are second-class citizens in Britain, with limits to their potential.
Their children are doing what the children of immigrants are supposed to do – become more fully British – even if that journey involves some unproductive or confusing detours.
Pinnock anchors this play in the solid and fully evoked reality of a mother, her teenage daughters and her friends, and envelops it in a warm and comic embrace that those audience members who share the characters' history immediately and happily respond to.
I hasten to say that there is much in the play to delight and entertain those without a Jamaican heritage, but every time your neighbour in the audience laughs at something you don't, you can be sure that a stingingly accurate in-joke, topical reference or bit of dialect humour has just gone by.
You don't have to be Jamaican to enjoy this play, but it does help.
What everyone in the audience can respond to, along with the rest of the jokes, are the understated but absolutely convincing truths the play presents, like the way the very independence and ambition a parent hopes to inspire in a child can look a lot like rebellion and self-destruction.
Or how a culture in which men are frequently absent forces women to become stronger than they realise they are, just because someone has to do what needs to be done, or how girls may find it easier to bond with and take advice from an adopted 'auntie' than from their mother.
Director Madani Younis sensitively brings out all the warmth and strength of the play and guides her cast, particularly Sarah Niles and Adjoa Andoh, toward completely inhabiting their characters in a fully-realised dramatic reality.
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