Tag Archives: Kane Husbands

“Clyde’s” at the Donmar Warehouse

Hope is the takeaway from playwright Lynn Nottage’s diner-based drama. The ex-convicts who are employed by the owner of the restaurant that takes her name know they’ve made mistakes and won’t find work elsewhere. But they still have aspirations – to make the perfect sandwich. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but Nottage and this five-star production make it a fulfilling menu.

Nottage often writes about the world of work – about trades unions in Sweat or the rag trade in Intimate Apparel. But while the setting is America, evoked with great skill, the concerns she raises are global: expectations, exploitation and the gig economy. A sense of pride in work is made palpable. To show the importance of the cuisine, the lighting and movement are invaluable, with credit to Oliver Fenwick and Kane Husbands respectively. It’s important we take these sandwiches seriously!

To really make sure we care, it’s Nottage’s larger than life but credible characters that power her drama so effectively. You root for each in a variety of ways. Director Lynette Linton and her cast present a surprising collection of heroes to perfection.

The lead role, of sorts, is Clyde, a monstrous creation performed by Gbemisola Ikumelo, who is mesmerising. Despite being the boss from hell, Clyde’s difficult life and her problems make her intriguing as well as repulsive. She’s filled with hate – the question is why. Her counterpart is the Buddha-like Montrellous portrayed by Giles Terera with suitable mystery and charisma. For all the calm, it turns out his backstory is just as dramatic.

Montrellous inspires his three fellow chefs, acting as a mentor. And he can teach us all a thing or two. These younger characters adore him in heartwarming fashion while, of course, having their own problems. The dynamics between them prove engrossing. A potential love affair between characters exquisitely portrayed by Sebastian Orozco and Ronkẹ Adékọluẹ́jọ́ adds romance, while an unrecognisable Patrick Gibson has a stunning role as former gang member Jason.

There is nothing laboured about Nottage’s dialogue or, indeed, its delivery. While the problems faced are heavy, the humour is light – Clyde’s is a very funny play. Many playwrights can show their wit and create characters a little too amusing to believe. But the humour here feels effortless and flows naturally. Chef’s kisses for this great work.

Until 2 December 2023


“Passion Fruit” at the New Diorama Theatre

Dior Clarke’s semi-autobiographical play is full of affirmation. From the start Clarke tells us his tale is a “self-love story” and characters keep positive in the face of difficult circumstances. The script, written with Stephanie Martin, suffers from self help mantras. But growing up gay on a rough estate, with an abused mother and a brother in trouble, needs determination and bravery – Passion Fruit has plenty of both.

Valid as the project of representation is – bringing new voices to the stage is important – the play isn’t innovative dramatically. The story is simple and much of the subject matter predictable, a lot of it depressingly so. There are no surprises: from a child questioning how men “should” behave, a teenager hiding his sexuality, through to the happy drama school ending. Instead, the show’s strengths come by adding energy to the story.

Hayden Mampasi, Dior Clarke and Charlotte Gosling

First, there is Clarke himself who brings considerable presence and physicality to the stage. Clarke deals subtly with showing a five year old, a school boy and then a petulant teenager: while the character is loud, the depiction is restrained. There are moments when delivery of the lines might be clearer, and direct addresses to the audience occur too often. But the emotions aroused by his family and community are sincere. Strong comic touches are even better.

Clarke is supported by two tremendous performances. Under the tight direction of Melinda Namdar, Charlotte Gosling and Hayden Mampasi perform all the other roles and don’t put a foot wrong. Mampasi is great as an elder brother, then potential boyfriend, as well as having an excellent comic turn as a grandmother. Gosling’s performance as the mother grounds the play from the start. And she impresses as different love interests, both female and male.

Gosling joins Clarke in two of the show’s strongest moments, intimate scenes where sex is depicted with originality. A clubbing scene is another highlight, as Clarke pole dances and explains the importance of wild nights out (albeit with unbelievable sophistication for a 19 year old). The movement in the piece, directed by Kane Husbands with Mateus Daniel, is interesting throughout – fighting or flirting as well as making love, it is the movement in the show that makes it worth watching.

Until 19 March 2020


Photos by Cesare Di Giglio