Theatre Royal Stratford East

NOW, I SEE at the Theatre Royal Stratford East


“All three actors have wonderful chemistry together, expressing a totally believable fraternal bond.”

Movement in theatre can often feel forced in an attempt to be Avant Garde. Cringe-inducing lyrical movement to show passion or staccato twitching under strobe to show something dark. In Now I See, Lanre Malaolu’s second play in what will be a trilogy as writer, director and movement director, modern black British masculinity is explored in a style of storytelling that naturally and organically interweaves narrative and movement to enhance the drama.

Set at the funeral of one of three brothers, the play is mostly a two hander between the remaining siblings, interspersed with flashbacks to a youth spent playing rough, making up dance routines, and impersonating the Power Rangers. A low-res hum of afro beats provides constant background music (sound design Pär Carlsson), cut with contemporary Black British pop and R&B to accompany some of the more involved moments of movement. Kieron (Oliver Alvin-Wilson) and Dayo (Nnabiko Ejimofor) appear not to have had much of a relationship in recent years, the cause for which is side stepped around and never addressed head on. What is clear is that the onset of sickle cell anaemia for their brother, Adeyeye (Tendai Humphrey Sitima) led to the issues between the brothers and the rest of the family. It’s fitting, then, that the remembrance of Adeyeye’s life should act as a healing experience for them.



Malaolu’s movement expresses emotion – joy, pain, relief – where words fail; enhancing the drama, rather than distracting. Set and staging (Igrid Hu) further complement the movement with a recurring rippling motif extending from drapery across the proscenium arch through to water filling a perspex coffin ever present downstage. In one particularly effective moment Alvin-Wilson as Kieron describes a dream he has had about a bird, a metaphor for his own deep buried pain. Under dim lighting, Nnabiko Ejimofor crosses down stage as the bird, taking slow timid steps before his movement becomes larger and more erratic, visualising the nightmarish quality of Kieron’s dream sequence.

All three actors have wonderful chemistry together, expressing a totally believable fraternal bond. Alvin-Wilson is the gruff, strong man. The eldest brother ground down by life. Who has hardened his exterior to protect against the cruel world and bad luck he has been dealt. Ejimofor is younger, more hopeful, trusting. He embodies the bookish stereotype of a man in touch with his emotions and perceptive to those of others. Tendai Humphrey Sitima as Adeyeye is largely silent in his role as the deceased brother, other than for occasional voice overs. This makes his perhaps the most difficult role of the three, never off stage but hardly at the centre of the drama; a constant presence circling his brothers haunting them or being haunted by them.

This all seems rather dark, but the cast seems to be enjoying themselves so much delivering the witty lines that more than once more than one actor can’t hold it together. Malaolu’s early successes may have been through movement and dance but this piece shows his talents as a writer, despite a slightly over indulgent climactic clash between the brothers in the second act. The script is surprisingly funny and warm for a play about grief and family trauma. But it’s through the smart delivery that the specificity written into the characters comes to life.

NOW, I SEE at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

Reviewed on 16th May 2024

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Camilla Greenwell





Previously reviewed at this venue:

CHEEKY LITTLE BROWN | ★★★½ | April 2024
THE BIG LIFE | ★★★★★ | February 2024
BEAUTIFUL THING | ★★★★★ | September 2023



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