After the success of Patricia Gets Ready, Kaleya Baxe returns to direct in collaboration with playwright Baruwa-Etti for a story of friendship, anger and courage where nothing is completely black or white. Half Empty Glasses is a coming-of-age story that explores what it means to step into a world of possibility and begin to see its injustices, deformities and annihilating inequalities, coming face to face with one’s own powerlessness for the first time.
Hovering between the possibility of a radiant future and a bleak present, overshadowed by his father’s degenerative illness, Toye (Samuel Tracy), the true dramatic focus of the play, is filled with a blind rage, toxic even, for those close to him, especially his friends Remi (Princess Khumalo) and Asha (Sara Hazemi). A play that aims to investigate the frustrations of a young black man torn between responsibility, a sense of injustice and anger at a destiny that seems as promising as it is unfair.
Through the activism of which Toye is the spokesperson, the play exposes the social injustices of a system still in force today, which leaves no room for minorities, their history and culture, but tries in vain to change within static and refractory structures. It is in fact the character of 16-year-old Toye that is Baruwa-Etti’s true masterpiece, whose fragility, contradictions, great courage and uncontrolled frustration he presents. In his approach to activism, an activism that is still naive and exacerbated, in his passion for the piano and music, in his ambitions as a promising young man and in his sorrow for his father’s condition, the spectators see revealed before his eyes a human nature as imperfect as it is poignant, with which they can identify and empathise.
However, the theme of activism as well as that of illness, the relationship with the sick father, as well as the conflict with the teachers, true potential dramatic catalysts, are almost left in the background, marginal expedients for a play of light visually suggestive, the one recreated by Rory Beaton on the Roundabout stage. An uplifting, almost naïve, story, which rests lightly on the themes treated without delving too deeply into them, leaving behind only the wake of a great protagonist.
Playing until 28 August, further information and tickets can be found HERE.
Reviewer: Anna Chiari
Reviewed: 16th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★