The story focuses on Obi, a young, gay, ambitious, Black British digital marketer. He bumps into Alex – a young, gay, white American ex drug addict - on a busy London street. After ten months of dating, Alex announces that due to Brexit, his firm is moving to Abu Dhabi. The only way they can stay together is if they get married. Obi agrees, albeit half-heartedly. Now comes the moment when the two young men must introduce each other to their respective families. Cultural fireworks should flare, but woefully low stakes and unbelievable coincidences abound in what becomes a deflated and repetitive musical.
The book and lyrics are written by TV heavyweight Matt Jones, who has penned episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and Mr Selfridge.
Kele Okereke, principal songwriter and frontman of English rock band Bloc Party, has written an electronic dance score with rhythmic guitar riffs and licks throughout.
The show is almost continuously underscored. While the songs are initially invigorating, they start to sound the same, with multiple reprises of sung inner monologues that do nothing to push the story forward.
There is dynamic energy and verve from the cast, with each actor pulling their weight in terms of acting, singing and dancing. Sadly for all their effort, they cannot revitalise what is essentially a flat book and lyrics.
Cornell S. John as Kenneth, Obi’s bigoted, first generation Nigerian immigrant father, plays his character’s harsh dimensions for all they’re worth. Interestingly, he receives the most of the laughs in the show, particularly at the end of the dinner party scene when the in-laws first meet, stating, ‘I want to put it on record that I behaved impeccably.’ Aretha Ayeh as Obi’s sister Chichi is grounded and provides emotional depth in the few moments she is given to shine.
The stand out performance comes from Tyrone Huntley as Obi. His singing voice is clear and bright, with a refreshing London lilt. Obi is cold and cagey, but we realise his distancing techniques stem from the neglect and humiliation he experienced from his homophobic father Kenneth, and his passive and meek mother Grace. Although this is one of the most powerful conflicts within the drama, the characters themselves do not feel fully wrought, and edge towards stereotypes. Alex’s white American family is drawn with the same lack of detail, being accepting to the point of imperiousness with their political correctness.
With the theme of gay marriage so thought-provoking and packed with potential, it’s a shame the creative team have not been able to deliver on plot or character development.
|What||Leave to Remain, Lyric Hammersmith review|
|Where||Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King St, W6 0QL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Hammersmith (All lines) (underground)|
16 Jan 19 – 16 Feb 19, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £42|
|Website||Click here to book now|