A whirlwind of nostalgia and joy breaks free on the Brixton House stage. Is Dat U Yh? Follows Debz, Tolu, Reena and Tia as they wind, sing and fumble their way through puberty into womanhood circa 2005. 

Starting in the stressful nightmare of adulting, the play immediately tells us it isn’t traditional in staging or storytelling. Bodies in suits and ties move around the stage in misery until a portal transports them to their past Link-Up. Here the characters come to life. Stories of boys, busses, dog chases and the grapple of growing into adulthood unfold in front of us. 70 minutes of schoolgirl experiences told back to back. These are the queens at the back of the bus and their tales are hilarious because they are true. 

The type of stories that hit the audience with a deep sense of nostalgia. As we watch we hear audience members saying “I did that” and a roar every time a 2000’s tune blasts across the space. We’re dancing in our seats and throwing hands up. It’s a celebration of all the fun, silly things we did and thought. 

Despite the displays of “nonsense” the play touches on that feeling we can’t often put our finger on - missing all the times we didn’t spend enough time enjoying. It also touches on missed conversations in black households to help with adolescence, postcode wars and being a growing black woman surrounded by western beauty standards. 

The cast are phenomenal. Adeola Yemitan (Debz), Antonia Layiwola (Tolu), Rachel Ridley (Reena) and Zakiyyah Deen (Tia) are a vibrant burst of energy from start to finish. The collective bounce between scenes and cover more material than I’ve seen before in a one-act piece. Their performance is athletic, shifting the set fabricated by Rusty Nutt Metalworks around in between every scene. The actors never leave the stage, it’s a display of stamina that doesn’t drop. Their ability to multi-role and work with the audience is further supported by slick dance moves, MC’ing hot bars and gold-standard comedic timing. This ensemble plays a collection of characters in “a time when laughter was free and nonsense was all we knew”. The sound design by Xana is rich with tunes and baselines. 

Dkfash showcases the power of being a multidisciplinary artist. The writing is beautifully detailed from a place of lived experience and the movement direction is also a leading language throughout, the stage always feels like London. The characters never stop throwing out scenarios, the culture is loud, the energy is punchy and the audience takes to the squad immediately. There isn’t a complex storyline to unpack which makes the show stand out, it’s a collection of quick-fire questions and answers in real time and it’s refreshing to watch. It’s touching because it’s happy and we don’t often get to see unapologetically joyful black stories on stage. 

I’m really excited to see what comes next for Initiative.dkf and would recommend this South London love letter for an exciting night at the theatre.

It runs until 27 April.


Review: Nicole Botha