Tag Archives: Nouveau Riché

Brenda's Got A Baby

Brenda’s Got a New Baby


New Diorama Theatre

BRENDA’S GOT A BABY at the New Diorama Theatre


Brenda's Got A Baby

“Come for the comedy and side-line the sincerity and you’ll be hard-pressed not to enjoy this show.”

Brenda’s Got a Baby, an original work premiering at the New Diorama Theatre, borrows its title from a 2pac song. The song tells the harrowing tale of a young, impoverished girl who has a baby at twelve that she cannot support and quite literally throws away. Through the story of one girl, 2Pac seeks to lay bare something truthful about the black experience. Jessica Hagan’s piece flips this on its head in this comedy-drama, with emphasis on the comedy.

Brenda, in Hagan’s reimagining, is the presumably white classmate of Ama, a British-Ghanaian, middle class, ex-grammar school girl from North London. Brenda had a baby at 16, plus four more between school and shortly before Ama’s 28th birthday when they bump into each other at a supermarket. It’s here the story begins, with Ama, a high-flyer fulfilling everything her mother and school expected of her, looking down her nose at Brenda. This meeting starts a chain of events that cause Ama to spiral and ask whether her fancy job, new flat and, on the surface, perfect boyfriend offer her everything she needs before she hits thirty.

The first act introduces us to Ama (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), her family and boyfriend. Everything looks great for her and is approached with realism. But just before the interval, Ama decides she must have a baby by thirty and a bomb-like countdown clock appears above the stage, signalling a descent in the second act to totally exaggerated, telenovela style theatre where Ama is driven mad, pretty literally, by her ticking clock.

It’s an incongruous mix. Not just for the fact that it feels like two different pieces smashed together, but for the way serious and sincere topics are treated against the farce. Ama’s sister Jade’s struggle with fibroids seems to make an important point about women’s health, and in particular black women’s health outcomes. But this plays out, briefly, and without much depth, against a bizarre episode where Ama tricks her sister’s husband to come with her to her fertility clinic appointment masquerading as her own husband.

It’s difficult to know what to make of this show. There is plenty that feels underdeveloped, not least the infantilising set of rainbow puzzle pieces. But the comedy is good, both in its writing and performance under Anastasia Osei-Kuffour’s direction. Edward Kagutuzi as Jade’s husband Skippy is hilarious as a sweet and well meaning wannabe Christian rapper, and his physical comedy with Ama’s boyfriend Dami (Jordan Duvigneau) receives plenty of uproarious laughter. It is just that these comedic moments are so outlandish, and the plot twist so wild and unexpected, that the rest of the more serious content fades into obscurity.

Come for the comedy and side-line the sincerity and you’ll be hard-pressed not to enjoy this show.

BRENDA’S GOT A BABY at the New Diorama Theatre

Reviewed on 8th November 2023

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Cesare De Giglio




Previously reviewed at this venue:

After The Act | ★★★★★ | March 2023
Project Dictator | ★★½ | April 2022

Brenda’s Got a Baby

Brenda’s Got a Baby

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For Black Boys

For Black Boys …


Royal Court

For Black Boys

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy 

Royal Court Theatre – Jerwood Theatre Downstairs


Reviewed – 7th April 2022



“a special, important piece of writing, and beautifully executed”


This show is not just a bunch of moving parts, gathered together. This is a whole, a collective: the music informs the text informs the design informs the lighting informs the performances. And it all moves in perfect synchronicity.

Taking place in an unidentified safe space, these six Black Boys come from different families, different backgrounds, and yet they all feel the weight of the monolithic ‘Black Man’: A black man doesn’t cry, he doesn’t show any weakness, he doesn’t need love.

Each character has a chance to speak his piece, be that regarding primary or secondary school, paternal relationships, romance, further education, or inescapable violence. And each is received without judgement, without fear of rejection.

Considering it’s an entire play of exposition, you’d think it would get tired pretty quickly, but writer-director Ryan Calais Cameron shows the depths and widths of this subject, the many angles and refractions, and he finely laces what is incredibly serious and unsmiling with so much tenderness and humour. He’s not afraid to take a very sombre moment and morph it in to a joke and then back again, or vice versa. For example, Midnight (Kaine Lawrence) tells us how he lost his virginity when he was nine to his babysitter. It’s the sort of messed up story boys are made to feel they should brag about. But obviously Midnight is traumatised, and while he’s trying to downplay his trauma (“And I can see you lot looking at me like I’m a victim”) the group starts singing, “I just want you to know that you are really special” from Snoop Dog and Pharrell’s ‘Beautiful’. They start in earnest, gathering closer and closer, embracing him tight, eventually breaking into affectionate laughter.

This is just one of so many moments which aren’t simply one thing- funny or sad; silly or serious. And the performances reflect this atmospheric plurality: everyone is somehow both acutely self-aware and touchingly naïve; honest in their disagreements and yet open to change; able to flip a smile in to a grimace with one breath.

Obviously this safe space is a fantasy, but these characters are so multifaceted, their interactions so genuine, it feels like maybe there’s a future where this kind of open dialogue could really exist.

Anna Reid’s design works in perfect tandem with this idea, using bold block colours to create a space that is both welcoming and Utopian. Layered with Rory Beaton’s equally bold lighting design, it feels isolating and inclusive in turn, giving each character their moments of solitude and fraternity.

And the dancing, and the singing, and the almost jukebox-style curation of a flawless soundtrack. There is so much to wax lyrical about. Each performer is so in sync with his part, it feels like it must have been workshopped, but I don’t see how given that the script is basically an epic poem.

Such a special, important piece of writing, and beautifully executed.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ali Wright


For Black Boys …

Royal Court Theatre until 30th April


Reviewed by Miriam this year:
Moulin Rouge! | ★★★ | Piccadilly Theatre | January 2022
She Seeks Out Wool | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | January 2022
Two Billion Beats | ★★★½ | Orange Tree Theatre | February 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | Wilton’s Music Hall | February 2022


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