Bush Theatre, London – until 7 August 2021
Last year a critic described a dramatic response to the Black Lives Matter protests, to which Benedict Lombe contributed, as ‘more lecture than theatre’. The quote is projected onto the set of her debut play, Lava, at the Bush Theatre.
It appears about three-quarters of the way through the play, a punctuation point, a punch, perhaps a poke but certainly a powerful note that underlines what has gone before and the overarching message of the piece.
What has gone before is the story of a missing first name in a passport. Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo plays Benedict, recounting the story of getting her British passport renewed and finding out why her first name is missing.
Her investigation takes her back to Congo, the country where she was born but much further back in history to colonialism and the years that followed that have shaped her life and the lives of so many. It is the tale of a family moving from place to place as Benedict’s parents seek out a country where they can lead fulfilled lives – and just be.
Lombe’s skilful writing blends the heavy lessons of history, growing pain and anger with the love, laughter and fun of family life. It is witty, weighted and lyrical.
And it’s brought to life with verve and charm by Adékoluẹjo, who holds you captivated, transporting you from country to country, encounter to encounter with vivid clarity.
The story is brought bang up to date, and we see Lombe talking in a video, laying bare her frustrations with progress on racism and how black pain and anger is brushed aside. And that’s when the critic’s quote appears.
The story, the history is why we need the lecture. Then maybe we will finally learn. Lava is one of those rare plays that seamlessly blends joy and fun with the thought-provoking and showcases Lombe as a writer to watch.
It’s 80 minutes long without an interval, and I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
You can see it at the Bush Theatre until 7 August.
Anna X, Harold Pinter Theatre – Emma Corrin plays the mysterious and magnetic Anna (until August 4)
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