This new piece by Matilda Ibini is a passionate love letter to black women. 

Actors Shayde Sinclair, Aliyah Odoffin, Amber Grappy, Bukky Bakray and writer Matilda Ibini are names to remember. The team has created a beautiful, touching and hilarious play. With so much representation on one stage, I don't think we've seen anything like it before. 

There are some big names in this cast but this is very much an ensemble piece of work as four friends from an East London high school navigate their way through the last years of education. We start at a sleepover for Shan (Aliyah Odoffin). It's her 16th birthday and she has sickle cell disease. She is joined by Rey (Amber Grappy) queer and confident with every step. Funmi (Bukky Bakray) is a kick of laughter in every scene. The opening sets the show up well. It's just so funny. The four joke, argue and debate over every topic. Shan's older brother Solomon becomes a running joke as the other girls lust over him. The show doesn't feel scripted, Matilda has done a tremendous job of making this feel improvised. The conversation pit set by Cara Evans is leapt across and lounged upon, it works really well. 

The four agree to go to the end of school prom together. Along the way, they are met with some serious challenges from the death of a parent to sexuality to boyfriends and living with sickle cell disease. The group's friendship is the baseline running through the show. It's a lot to cover in one play but it's honest and these things happen to us all as teenagers. I haven't seen a disability played out on stage before, Aliyah Odoffin is flawless as Shan and embodies the body aches and heartache of living with a hidden illness. Bukky Bakray as Funmi is the friend you want when things go wrong. Her performance is subtle and underplayed perfectly the comedy oozes out of her blank face. Amber Grappy and Shayde Sinclair make brilliant polar opposites as Rey and Elle. Their fiery friendship is a good base for Elles coming to understand her love life as she grapples with living as a modern, liberal Christian. 

This play is about entering adulthood, but also about having childhood dreams. We think about the detrimental effects of living with sickle cell disease. The struggle to find love and be out and proud as a queer black woman. The pressure of having African parents and being who they expect you to be and most of all being an aspiring black woman with all of life's struggles mounted on top. The show is heavy-hearted at times but sugarcoated in tender acts of friendship, tears or laughter (I loved the ice cream moment, I've been there) and all the relatable conundrums of being a teenage girl. 

Director Jade Lewis has got the show so well-paced and slick and it's a remarkable bush debut from a newcomer. It's fresh and exuberant. I want to be friends with these girls. A special mention must go to the creative team for making every show a relaxed environment, audience

members are invited to come and go, and respond to the show however they wish. It made for a very special press night indeed. 

This show will rightfully sell out. Be quick.


It runs until 8 April.


Review: Nicole Botha     Photo: Helen Murray