Review of The Brothers at the London's Hackney Empire
By Jo Price
The first thing that struck me when I walked into the main theatre of the
Hackney Empire on the opening night of The Brothers is that it was packed from the stall right up to the upper circle there wasn’t a single free seat.
You couldn’t help but be drawn into the atmosphere. I was excited!
The Brothers By Angie Le Mar begun first as a radio soap on Choice FM and then transferred onto the stage of the Hackney Empire’s Bullion Rooms (the smaller theatre) in October 2005.
Angie is a woman of many talents - a gifted writer, playwright, radio presenter, stand up comedienne, director and producer. This is her first theatre offering since Funny Black Women on the Edge (1994, 2003).
Angie’s entertaining piece became a success story as soon as the audience got a glimpse of the three fine brothers that were Nolan Weekes as Kenny, Richard Blackwood as Michael and Nicholas Marshall as Richard.
Word spread like lightning before the thunder and before we all got a chance to tell all our friends the two-week run had sold out.
The Brothers is a modern day portrayal of Black British men and their
relationship with their ‘boys’ and the women in their lives.
There are a few cast changes since October 2005; Footballer’s Wives (ITV) star Chucky Venice was now playing Richard the single dad with a heart of gold. Michelle Gayle, who recently appeared in Channel 4 show The Games, played the part of his baby mother - Brenda.
Both changes were for the better of the production.
Michelle was entirely convincing as the scornful ‘typical black baby
mother’. Chucky showed that he has what it takes to make it as a stage actor and was effortlessly sexy even though his role did not require him to be.
The Brothers was more comedy than drama with the great comical timing of Richard Blackwood who plays the ‘womanising’ black man. Then there’s Kenny and the affair between him and his work colleague Sally (Nicky Raby) who happens to be a white girl.
The audience reaction to this was amazing – displeased would be putting it lightly. Her character was greeted with hostility from the female audience members when she foolishly stated: ‘what is it with black girls’ and then ‘is it because I don’t put grease in my hair?’
Sonia (Janet Williams) is Richard’s new lady who is meant to represent the easygoing black girl who is ‘slightly educated’.
Throughout the play, Kenny struggles to overcome waves of guilt for cheating on his black fiancée Jennifer (Katherin Evernez) with the white girl Sally.
He never seems to over come this even when it was clear she had moved on with his best friend Michael and he was having a baby on the way with Sally.
That’s the power of a black woman!
There is a bit of distraction from the main characters with Pip (Enor Ewere) who play the annoying black barmaid who falls for Michael’s smooth talking ways only to be dissed early on.
The play worked because it was simple. The play was about a simple universal theme that the audience could relate to – relationships, black
The audience were satisfied that this story could be real. It could have been us, it was us!
We ladies got the opportunity to get a glimpse of what we always thought to be true about men - they think about us as much as we think about them!
The play did play up to a number of stereotypes and clichés such as the
Blackman is only with the white girl because she is dumb, and that all
single black mum’s are bitter and twisted and use their kids as a weapon.
However, it was so refreshing to see three strong black men on the stage at once all in lead roles acting their hearts out that we over looked this.
Chucky, Richard and Nolan did not disappoint their female fan base when it came to visual pleasure. The men looked physically fit dressed head to toe in Wale Adeyemi designs – we all wanted to be with them.
As the fastest selling show in the Hackney Empire for 10 years, I personally can’t wait for part two!
Jo Price is The New Black Magazine’s theatre expert.
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