Saturday, September 30

Brown Girls Do It Too: Mama Told Me Not To Come – Soho Theatre

“What does it mean to be ‘brown’?”

Based on the multi award-winning BBC Sounds podcast (‘Best Podcast of the Year’ at the British Podcast Awards 2020 and Asian Media Awards 2021), this production is a whirlwind of slapstick comedy, emotion and discovery.

Starring Poppy Jay and Rubina Pabani, this performance is an honest and true representation of second-generation Asian women growing up in Britain. As well as exploring their many fantasies and sexpectations, these women discuss their battle with wanting to be ‘white’ and embracing their ‘brown’ culture simultaneously. Set to a backdrop of 90s and 2000s nostalgia, including poster artwork of iconic films such as Bend It Like Beckham and 10 Things I Hate About You, the audience is completely transported into the bedroom of a teenage girl.

While styled to match their popular podcast, the show focuses on a series of sketches with audience participation and interaction, the two leads primarily acting as presenters but transforming into character. Poppy and Rubina are both equally engaging, their dramatic facial expressions and bold movement creating some fabulously hilarious moments. Both play an array of different characters, from male ‘gangsters’ to uptight Asian aunties and the advisers of the iconic ‘Coconut Crimes Hotline’. The different accents and dialects these girls present are particularly impressive, the audience seeing clear transformations between each character despite limited costume changes.

Turning a podcast into a performance is not an easy feat, but this production does well to create innovative ways to hold the audience’s attention. A quirky and clever rendition of a popular 90s pop song as the girls spoke about their sex lives and growing up with Asian parents, effectively broke up the dialogue. Transitions were smooth, effective lighting and sound used as well as screens to continue to immerse the audience and create atmosphere.

Though on the surface this is a comedic production, at its core, it is a performance of raw emotion and deeper understanding into the stereotypes and backlash of having brown skin, delving into racism and colourism. This production creates an open and unjudgmental space for both Poppy and Rubina to open up, but also allows the audience to explore their own afflictions and what ‘being brown’ means to them.

Brown Girls Do It Too: Mama Told Me Not To Come is currently playing at the Soho Theatre until 10th June 2023, tickets and more information can be found at:

Reviewer: Maani Way

Reviewed: 25th May 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.