REVIEW: Let There Be Love
By K.L John
Thursday, August 21, 2008.
Kwame Kwei-Armah is a Great British treasure. Insightful, thought-provoking and rather articulate, it has been said over and over again that he is one to watch. So is his play. With an appreciation for contemporary history, Let There Be Love’s tale of a friendship between an old Caribbean man and a young Polish migrant is perfectly logical: Both arrived in Britain in hope of a better life and with every legal right to enter the UK. Both, unfortunately, faced a rude awakening on arrival.
Let There Be Love, however, delves far deeper than the migrant experience. Kwei-Armah’s real gift is his ability to get to the heart of the complexities of human beings and human relationships. The adage ‘one person’s meat is another person’s poison’ is turned on its head and the play powerfully demonstrates a person can easily be both saviour and tormentor, and that their role is determined largely by their relationship with the labeller.
The piece centres on Alfred, brought to life by Joseph Marcell. A lonely, embittered old Caribbean man, he is estranged from his wife and one of his daughters, and is stuck in a hurtful rut with the other (Gemma, played brilliantly by Sharon Duncan-Brewster). From a friendship with his cleaner, however, redemption beckons. Despite the issues raised, and the rawness of the well-played emotional tension, Let There Be Love has a definite lightness – due in part to the prominence of Nat King Cole’s music. Laughter echoed throughout the show and Maria (Lydia Leonard) singing along confidently to a calypso, is an image that will stay with this reviewer for a long time.
Let There Be Love doesn’t pack the Tyson-esque knock-out punch of Statement of Regret, the playwright’s last offering. It nonetheless bears the trademarks of the Kwame Kwei-Armah play: the African-Caribbean protagonist able to teach the Queen a thing or two about the beauty of the English language, who fluidly infuses speech with distinctively Caribbean colloquialisms.
The authenticity of the characters’ lives; The Crouches this is not. Gemma’s attitude is understandable, her clothes and patterns of speech are strikingly familiar, as is the warm Polish lilt of Maria, and the had-it-since-the-50s wallpaper of Alfred’s house. The attention to detail; in Statement of Regret it was the hero comparison, the framed picture of Fanon versus the screensaver of Jay-Z on the desks. In a scene in Let There Be Love, when Gemma and Maria discuss Alfred’s health, Gemma is wearing her shoes, but Maria talks in her socks; she is at home.
In short, Let There Be Love is one to watch. Returning due to popular demand, it plays at the Tricycle Theatre until the 30th of August. Ring the box office on 020 7328 1000 for tickets.
K.L John is The New Black Magazine's Francophone Correspondent.
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