Lonely Londoners captures the stories of some of the Windrush generation as they come to make a life in London. Galahad is excited to start his new adventure, but is met by the weathered and bitter Lewis, Moses, and Big City who know all too well the reality of this move. We see them navigate their individual challenges, supporting each other and keeping one another on the right track. Amid the current discourse surrounding blackout nights at theatre, and the notion of 'radically inviting' people into spaces they have historically not been welcome, this is an especially poignant story to be telling through this medium. 

Roy William's script is brilliant - it sets up a warm and naturalistic baseline interspersed with more performative monologues. The naturalistic scenes, in particular, are beautifully directed by Ebenezer Bamgboye - the pacing of this play is sheer perfection (an hour and 45 minutes straight through and you never once feel the need for an interval), with the comedy of the text being exquisitely understated (such as Big City's constant malapropisms of key London places) and therefore all the more hilarious. Beyond one moment of transphobia and homophobia which - though content-warned and lasting less than a couple of minutes - feels either completely unnecessary or in need of a directorial revisit, the comedic joy of this play runs through even the darker scenes. It expertly provides much-needed levity, as well as the profound contrast of darkness and light that underpins this entire production - a love story to London that highlights the romanticism of this uniquely special city while simultaneously presenting its raw and unforgiving brutality. The play takes us on the most beautiful journey, an emotional rollercoaster with an underlying message of the power and importance of making space for everyone: "if it don't fit, you make changes".

The more artistic vignettes that are interspersed between scenes are a little less consistent in their impact - occasionally, the stylised movement surrounding the speaker is confusing and does little to add to what is being delivered - and aren't always clear in their meaning and intention. However, the transitions between reality and these more surrealist snippets are beautiful, not to mention the sections of Moses' memories and a sublime depiction of the men supporting each other, gorgeously choreographed by Nevena Stojkov. All this is soundtracked with genius by Tony Gayle, perfectly guiding us through the emotional intensity of the narrative. Laura Ann Price does a great job with the limited space - the use of trunks moving around the stage is a lovely touch, and the subtle presentation of vices on the wall serves as a fantastic Chekov-esque foreboding throughout the performance - though this piece would be served well with a far larger performance space. 

The performances are all fantastic, and gel together as one of the most exceptional ensemble casts around, but the four leads must be praised in particular for their talents. Gamba Cole's Moses is beautifully real and profoundly balances the role of supportive friend with the hidden toll taken on his heart. Tobi Bakare tackles the incredibly complex characterisation of Lewis, a man beaten down by life and London, turning to drink and taking it out on his loved ones, and does so with expert sincerity. Romario Simpson beautifully captures the naivety of high-energy Galahad, before succumbing to the harsh reality of his position - he utterly devastates with his slow build to a revelation that "it is not us... it is this, this ****ing black!" in a moment that leaves the audience breathless. And Gilbert Kyem Jnr is a tour-de-force as Big City; he perfectly captures his continual comic relief without ever hamming it up, and plays his role with the utmost honesty, capturing rage, disappointment, and bitterness in the perfect blend. 

A powerful and important piece of theatre, Lonely Londoners runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until 6th April. 


Review: Penny Lane   Photo: Alex Brenner