Tag Archives: Chinonyerem Odimba


★★★ ½

Theatre Royal Stratford East

CHEEKY LITTLE BROWN at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

★★★ ½

“a grower of a piece whose meaning lingers after it’s done”

Described by writer Nkenna Akunna as ‘an ode to your early twenties’, ‘cheeky little brown’ follows Lady, played by Tiajna Amayo, for a night on the town as she attempts to reconnect with recently estranged childhood friend – Gemma – with indications there may have been something more than friendship.

Lady is a pretty complex character. At times she is an uncomfortably hateful extrovert – commanding attention at Gemma’s birthday party whilst dismissing her friends and housemates. Yet we see from Tiajna Amayo’s deft performance how much of this bravado is a front for the deep rejection she feels. The occasional glimpse of a low, inward facing moment is accompanied by subtle lighting cues under Jodie Underwood’s direction, drawing you in to consider what’s left unsaid.

Whilst it’s at the party that we get to know Lady and her quirks, the piece really comes into its own in the second half when Amayo’s Lady leaves the party and is in a more reflective mood on the night bus home. After the highly-strung antics which result in an explosion of glittering vomit (to the delight of the audience) a laid-back Lady emerges.

Amayo gamely steps in to voice other characters Lady encounters on her way. She affects an exaggerated laid back drawl for Jessie, one of Gemma’s posh, uni friends, and a bang on Nigerian Auntie, berating her for being out so late. Amayo switches between characters with ease. Extra credit must also be given to her also for continuing to indulge in much of Chinonyerem Odimba’s direction despite the use of crutches adopted after an injury in rehearsals.

‘cheeky little brown’s’ considered aesthetic is perfectly matched to the drama. Set by Aldo Vazquez packs a punch from gold streamers and two-foot-tall, hot pink balloon letters spelling out ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY GURRRL’. Balloons are a key ingredient for other moments too, to great effect. The sound design is equally impressive, with a rich auditory landscape of techno beats through to birdsong meaning Amayo never seems lonely on the stage.

The few musical numbers unfortunately lack creativity. The melodies are not memorable nor the lyrics particularly clever – but Amayo does a good job working with what she’s given. What the songs are successful at is emphasising Lady’s extroverted tendencies, thereby building her character.

It’s a character we are still left questioning as the curtain falls. Back at home she vomits again… and again… and it slowly starts becoming clear that there’s more than just heartbreak ailing Lady, hiding in plain sight.

‘cheeky little brown’ is a grower of a piece whose meaning lingers after it’s done. With cleverly subtle writing and direction, fun design and a confident performance from Tiajna Amayo it’s a specifically contemporary piece that explores young, black, queer love and mental health in a surprisingly light-hearted and fun way.

CHEEKY LITTLE BROWN at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

Reviewed on 17th April 2024

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Craig Fuller



Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE BIG LIFE | ★★★★★ | February 2024
BEAUTIFUL THING | ★★★★★ | September 2023



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


The Desert

15 Heroines – The Desert


Jermyn Street Theatre Online

The Desert

15 Heroines – The Desert

Online from Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2020



“an exhilarating and thoughtful production”


The Desert is one of the three instalments in 15 Heroines, a series of monologue’s inspired by a work by the Roman poet Ovid that give a voice to the aggrieved women of ancient mythology. Directed by Adjoa Andoh, Tom Littler and Cat Robey, The Desert gives a platform to Deianaria, Dido, Canace, Hypermnesta, and Sappho, all of whom were abandoned by their husbands or lovers.

We first hear from Dianaria (Indra Ové), the first wife and eventual killer of the great hero Hercules. Reimagined as the betrayed WAG of a star footballer, Dianaria – whose name incidentally means ‘man destroyer’ – plots her revenge on her cheating husband and muses on the laddish culture of celebrity sports. Dido (Rosalind Eleazar) shares her story next. The Queen of Carthage gave refuge to the great Roman hero Aeneas before he left suddenly in the night for Italy. Devastated at his leaving, Dido commits suicide, in myth, by pyre, in this play, by sword.

We then learn about the incestuous romance between Canace (Eleanor Tomlinson) and her brother Macareus who, despite their sordid affair, refused to marry her. Canace here is a guest on a talk show, answering questions about her horrifying relationship from an imagined figure off stage. The defiant Hypermnestra (Nicholle Cherrie) follows with her tale of desertion by her husband despite saving his life at risk of her own.

The great poet Sappho (Martina Laird) ends the quintet speaking about her unfaithful lover Phaon who she refers to as Britain. Sappho’s monologue explores the relationship between coloniser and colonised as Sappho laments her conformation to white beauty standards – bleached skin and a blonde wig – despite her Trinidadian heritage. This theme feels particularly poignant as Lesbos, Sappho’s home, is currently at the centre of the migrant crisis.

Ové, Tomlinson and Laird are the standout performers of the piece. Ové brings a menace to her speech that excites the audience; Tomlinson is fantastically convincing in the role of Canace; and Laird lends a vulnerability to her scene making its themes all the more powerful.

The reimagining of Dianaria, Canace and Sappho are also the most interesting and all have captivating scripts (April De Angelis, Isley Lynn and Lorna French respectively). De Angelis’ script has a welcome touch of humour. For example, Dianaria exclaiming that she was so upset by her husband leaving that she almost gave up hot yoga. Her speech also refers to several footballer scandals from Wayne Rooney to Adam Johnson. Though her tale feels exceedingly personal, we are reminded through these references that abuse and betrayal at the hands of powerful men is far from a rare occurrence.

Lynn’s script takes a different approach from the others, adopting a more conversational and thoroughly light-hearted tone at the beginning. The televised interview is an interesting way to explore such a taboo topic, and highlights how gossip and spectacle is at the heart of celebrity culture.

The sets are all centred around a chair on which the women sit apart from Hypermnestra’s scene (Jessie McKenzie) where Cherrie moves around the stage with great energy. There are also some brief bouts of singing in Hypermnestra’s monologue and a rhythmic breathing serving as a backing track. There is a clever reference to the metre of Sappho’s lyric poetry when Laird hits her papers to a careful beat while reading her letter to Phaon.

The Desert is an exhilarating and thoughtful production. All three chapters of 15 Heroines have explored universal themes of love, loss, and betrayal, but none do so successfully as The Desert that demonstrates how even millennia later, some things never change.


Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Marc Brenner


15 Heroines – The Desert

Online via jermynstreettheatre.co.uk until 14th November


Last ten shows reviewed by Flora:
Jekyll & Hyde | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Minority Report | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | February 2020
Julius Caesar | ★★★★ | The Space | March 2020
The Haus Of Kunst | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Big Girl | ★★★ | Bread & Roses Theatre | September 2020
Pippin | ★★★★ | The Garden Theatre | September 2020
All By Myself | ★★½ | Online | October 2020
How to Live a Jellicle Life | ★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | October 2020
Howerd’s End | ★★★½ | Golden Goose Theatre | October 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews