Theatre: Benjamin Zephaniah Talks Black British Men’s Prostate

January 13, 2024
2 mins read

By Belinda Otas
Wednesday, March 19, 2008.
5 Stars
Cancer is no light-hearted matter. And when it is prostate cancer, it becomes a subject many of our men would rather not talk about. Not the poet and writer, Benjamin Zephaniah.
If like me, you’re keen on facts and learning new things, this is the production to watch out for. You will find out what Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) stands for, as well as the fact that Black men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than white men.
Commissioned by the UK’s Prostate Cancer Society, De Botty Business is an upbeat and humorous examination of the misconceptions, myths, fears and taboos connected to prostate cancer in the Black community. 
The comedy is set in a West Midlands barber shop, owned by Jamaican couple Mr and Mrs Maxwell and run by their Rastafarian son Marky. Up until the day we join him, Marky’s greatest problem in life is that he would rather be running the world’s first Rasta airline – with flights daily between Jamaica and Ethiopia – than cutting hair. But on this fateful day, his father returns from some routine blood tests to proclaim that he is dying.
Mr Maxwell is faced with the prospect that he may have prostate cancer and he is adamant no one will put ‘their fingers’ up his backside in order to examine him. His fears skyrocketed when he starts listening to the different medical options facing him. But the cancer seems to be less scary than some of the ill-advised input from his friends.
However, the arrival of Johnson brings a different and balanced perspective for them all. Maxwell’s reversed the decision not to see a doctor.
The unadulterated Jamaican Patois on stage adds an edge to this production which makes it enjoyable and thrilling to watch. You can’t help but laugh at the individual idiosyncrasies of these different characters.
The ensemble is indeed a bunch of interesting and quirky people; from Ivan, who believes, “Root medicine is the real medicine and nature knows best,” to Charlene, the local ‘chatterbox.’
If Charlene gets hold of your business, be prepared, everyone you know is going to find out. And who can forget Barns, the most ‘financially astute’ character I have ever experienced on stage. The burst of laughter from the audience as these characters revealed themselves is a testament to the play’s ability to entertain and educate. You just have to experience it yourself.
This is a well thought-out production by the Prostate Cancer Society. It’s time we stopped using tradition as an excuse not to live and lead a healthy lifestyle, and start using common sense.
This is no Jamaican farce of a play, these are real life issues presented with a touch of compassion and ‘wicked’ humour. De Botty Business is insightful, brilliant and as witty as the play’s title. Riveting and without a doubt, absolutely entertaining.
Image: The Prostate Cancer Charity
Written by Benjamin Zephaniah
Directed by Karen Tomlin
Cast: Cedric Duncan, Joan Hooley, David Monteith, Irina Aggrey, Terence Anderson, Cleveland D Herbert, Sabina Cameron and Jonny Leigh-Wright.
De Botty Business was produced by The Prostate Cancer Society to raise awareness within the African Caribbean community alongside its Prostate Cancer Awareness week. If you want to see this show in your area, contact the Prostate Cancer Society
Tel: 020 8222 7622
Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine’s features and theatre editor. She can be reached at
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