Sunday, July 21

Now I See – Stratford East

In a unique fusion of movement, music and text, “Now, I See” takes audiences on a vibrant, emotional journey through the joys and pains of being black and male in contemporary Britain. Directed, choreographed and written by Lanre Malaolu, this 130-min nugget offers a luscious dive into male consciousness and the culture that shapes childhood adventures and a man’s ability to choose his narrative later in life. Fans of Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog” should feel right at home.

The story centres on three brothers, and the aftermath of the middle one’s death, Adeyeye, from sickle cell disease. His passing leaves big brother Kieron and youngest brother Dayo grappling with their grief and searching for a way forward. History, big and small, has not been kind to either and the brothers’ contrasting coping mechanisms create a compelling tension that drives the play.

Powerfully portrayed by Alvin-Wilson with movie star charisma and “finesse”, big brother Kieron oscillates between protector and bully, unable to handle his own pain or that of others. His monologue on vulnerability is a highlight, a deeply affecting moment evoking the spirit of bell hooks’ work on masculinity. Nnabiko Ejimofor shines as the downright charming younger brother Dayo, the ever-smiling dreamer whose heavens are filled with books and soulful camaraderie.

The play skillfully alternates between present-time interactions among the surviving brothers and riotous reenactments of the trio’s childhood antics.  Though it is the choreographed sequences, a trademark of Malaolu’s directing style, that elevate this production to its full potency. The physicality of the trio conveys emotions that words cannot. The spirit of Adeyeye (Tendai Humphrey Sitima) never leaves the stage and Kieron’s anguish becomes unmistakably visceral when expressed through a silent scream, reminiscent of the Klimt painting. Slick visuals from scenographer Ingrid Hu and lighting designer Ryan Day, and an impeccable soundscape by composer Jan Brzezinski and sound designer Pär Carlsson completes this high-value production.

Now, if the first half flies by without a glitch, the second half misses a few marks. The characters, who previously avoided vulnerability and true intimacy, suddenly become surprisingly articulate about their feelings. Subtext diminishes and generalisations are made as universal truths get spelled out so that lessons can be learned by all. While this shift may feel odd at times, maybe it serves a purpose in a world that seems so immune and illiterate in black shame and pain. Maybe we do need a bit of spelling out…

“Now, I See” is a play for the community, offering healing and reflection. Despite its minor flaws, it is a poignant and powerful exploration of grief, identity, and the bonds that hold us together.

Playing until 1st June,

Reviewer: Klervi Gavet

Reviewed: 16th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.