As a young immigrant, seeing one’s own problems and conflicts being represented on stage is a strong message of resistance and support. When a text is straightforward and the acting is full of life, nothing can go wrong.
Gone Too Far!, written by Bola Agbaje and Directed by Monique Touko, is a clear and dynamic play, being staged again in Theatre Royal Stratford East after premiering in 2007 as a commissioned work for the Royal Court Theatre. Here, problems are faced straight on, without any fears of provoking booing or indignation from the audience. I found myself sighing and sitting on the edge of my seat, uncomfortable with some of the situations that the main characters had to go through.
As soon as the piece starts, we are introduced to the two main characters: Yemi, played by Jerome Scott, and his brother Ikudayisi, portrayed by Dalumuzi Moyo. Two brothers of Nigerian descent, one of them raised in Nigeria, the other one in London. After having a short and exhilarating conflict with their mother, the two brothers are sent to buy some milk, and this rather simple task turns into a whole adventure.
First, they find themselves being rejected from the shop, then a neighbor kicks them out from a bench, and later they find themselves detained by the police because of a simple and innocuous fraternal discussion that becomes a little too physical, before entering into a dangerous encounter. Every single time, in every situation, racism, colourism and xenophobia are depicted ruthlessly, unapologetically. Offensive comments from the white performers are usually very believable, and per the reactions in the audience, it was understandable that most people had suffered or witnessed a similar situation. Congratulations for having the courage to interpret such offensive characters, ranging from micro racism to out loud racism.
This issue of one shared ancestry, with different ways of living it, is masterfully represented, Also the conflicts of being a black person, with all the nuances that it entails, are present. An interesting character to represent this is Armani, played by Keziah Campbell-Golding, who blatantly insults the character of Ikudayisi for speaking Yoruba, and later on in the play becomes offended when getting called out for not being black enough. When speaking to her friend Paris, played by Hannah Zoé Ankrah, she ends up telling her “You’re lucky you’re not black black”.
The cast is huge, twenty performers, some of which barely say a word, and some of them with non-speaking roles. And yet, the play is perfectly constructed as it is, and every gesture, every movement, even the scene changes, build up to the narrative, which feels constantly on the edge. Even in everyday situations, it feels like these two brothers are constantly risking their lives, and the judgement from their neighbors feels asphyxiating. The way in which Scott’s character tells his brother “You should go back to where you belong” is heartbreaking.
Although it feels unfair in such a large group of people doing such a great work to name one person, it is absolutely necessary to highlight the work of Moyo, who goes from getting every single person in the room from bursting into laughter to be crying for him. It is quite an astonishing sight, and his performance is remarkable.
Memorable work, this play is a must see, reflecting on very current topics related to a globalized work and its very palpable consequences.
Reviewer: Gonzalo Sentana
Reviewed: 28th March 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★