Written by guest reviewer Raymond Woolford.
Theatre in London is far too often lead by big-budget productions packed with A-list celebrity casts that leave audiences more overwhelmed by the stage sets and costumes than the content and the cast, while new independent productions giving a break to new writers and new talent throughout are costly and difficult to stage with no guarantee of an audience in these tough times. This is not helped by a too-small elite mainstream media who far to often fail to interview or feature or give space to Britains rising talent pool. As #OscarsSoWhite and #BaftasSowhite hashtags grip social media I do wonder if every aspect of UK theatre is really addressing this issue and truly doing its best to feature Black talent, for if it did and there were any justice and equality in news coverage, Jahmar Ngozi should be up there with fellow Lewisham resident Kate Tempest, the bright star George the Poet as one of Britains finest.
On a cold Monday night, I headed out with a friend to follow the buzz about this bright star Jahmar Ngozi to see his Edinburgh Fringe success show Broken English, holding a limited stage run at The Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden. We had concerns that Monday in January, not a great night to catch a show, but broadcaster and social commentator Robert Elms who featured Jahmar for his award-winning BBC Radio London show helped ensure a rare almost sold out theatre with an audience more diverse and as engaging as the performers for Broken English. A story about one man's life story through the art of poetry, slamming, song, dance, music and a clear grasp of English language ensured the audience was captivated and seduced from the very first words. Addressing the audience Jahmar asked: who in the audience knows what it's like to be broke? A play on the opening title of this production then took us all on a journey through Jahmar's life history, slavery, Windrush, war, inequality, rights, and respect for women, Not being great at school and yet becoming a playwright, a poet, a wordsmith and so much more using wit, dance, music. A more than able crew of Sam Burnard, the awesome Jake Bryan-Amaning and Rosie May-Jones who was able to equally shine on this stripped-back set making us rethink as an audience how we see and interpret everyday words, their power to enrage, engage, motivate and define us.
Shakespeare and Greek Drama is recognised as English language at its most profound and yet I believe in 20 years the Language of Kate Tempest, George the Poet and Jahmar Ngozi will be up there. For Broken English is not just great Theatre, its a rare piece of work that deserves a broader audience. 4 stars . `This has a limited London stage run so buy your tickets now: https://www.actorscentre.co.uk/theatre