David Alade specifies that everything in this story happened to him. He wants to stress that and make sure that we don't forget - although he'd rather tell us this story through his younger alter ego; Lil D. Lil D is a young black boy growing up in Peckham. His life begins in a sphere of complete normality; the slightly too tight, off-coloured school jumper, learning to ride a bike and the warmth of a first crush. As Lil D grows up, reality falls heavy on his head as gang violence creeps into his life and lands on his back in the form of a knife. Lil D hardens as a result, beginning to carry a pocket knife around and harbouring the weight of suspicion at any form of prolonged eye contact. Lil D soon escapes his violent hometown and attends university - a glowing distraction of bright club lights, sweet smiles and 9am lectures that is over as soon as it's begun. 

But watching Lil D grow up isn't what's at the heart of this show. Lil D's story is the whirlwind of events that gravitates back to his father - Sunny. Sunny, a Nigerian father who lands miles away from the stereotypical ‘toxic masculinity' ridden father, and is instead described by Lil D as verging on ‘toxic femininity'. A man who is unafraid to cry, express emotion and provoke gentleness in his children as opposed to fear. As Lil D barely shuffles in to adulthood, Sunny is diagnosed with cancer. 

At a young age, Lil D is thrown into grief's deep end. He goes through the motions of losing his father as he is alive, and the motions of grieving when he has passed. He is burnt by the regret of a single phrase his younger self said, that his father was selfish in becoming ill. That doesn't he realise he's ‘ruining our lives?'. Lil D's melting pot of guilt, shame and anger is what really felt to be the heart of the play - the raw emotions of grief that so many of us have felt, yet endured in complete isolation. 

‘Sunny Side-Up' is a show that not only depicts the life of a young black boy growing up in Peckham, but of a young boy who is thrown into the arms of grief, and shares with us every brutal step that accompanies it. 


Review: Bibi Lucille    Photo: Lidia Crisafulli