Gone Too Far!
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
It is always a cause of great excitement when an exciting and original new playwright is discovered. It is greatly to the credit of the Royal Court's Young Writers' Programme that it regularly unearths promising writers and Bola Agbaje might well turn out to be one of the best.
She has a really interesting and original theatrical voice and is a representative of Anglo-African youth, which without role models and plays that speak to it, might otherwise feel excluded from this medium completely.
If there was any doubt at all about the importance of embracing this community and the Anglo-West Indians up the road, events in Peckham in recent weeks, where gangland murders have become commonplace, will ensure that the subject-matter of Gone Too Far! is topical.
This 90 minute drama tells the story of two brothers who have only just met for the first time. 16 year-old Yemi, played by Tobi Bakare, is streetwise and thinks that he knows a lot about life. His elder brother, Tunji Lucas' Ikudayisi, has been brought up in Nigeria and has a completely different outlook.
Where Yemi is always up for a fight and will talk back to anybody, Ikudayisi has already seen too many deaths over unimportant material goods and, as a consequence, his instincts are naturally peaceful. That is not easy on the run-down estate where the pair live.
The driving force throughout Gone Too Far!, is neither of the brothers but a firebrand girl called Armani who has real problems with an in-yer-face attitude that constantly causes trouble. The excellent Zawe Ashton makes the most of her opportunities and also demonstrates real talent as a dancer between scenes.
Thanks to her efforts, the play builds to what looks like a tragic finale, as the brothers get caught up in a gang war over nothing more important than a pair of Air Max trainers.
There is much rich comedy in this play as well as use of the English language that can be as unintelligible as Ikudayisi's Yoruba. However, meaning always comes through when it really matters.
Gone Too Far! is a comedy-drama about cultural identity and, in particular, the experience of second generation African and West Indian "yout" on the streets of London today. However, it extends beyond racial issues to look at the way in which youngsters grow up before their time and risk becoming part of a knife culture that threatens to blight or even end their lives.
With the help of young director, Bijan Sheibani, and a committed set of actors of varying quality, Bola Agbaje creates a series of memorable characters and uses language in new and exciting ways. She needs to serve a longer apprenticeship before she knows how to craft a plot to make the most of her people but that should come.
At the performance under review, Gone Too Far! greatly appealed to a house packed with often gleeful youngsters, many of whom may not previously have visited a theatre. There is little doubt that, like the reviewer, they will be keenly awaiting Bola Agbaje's next play.
Playing until 17th February
Reviewer: Philip Fisher