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The Fellowship

The Fellowship


Hampstead Theatre

The Fellowship

The Fellowship

Hampstead Theatre

Reviewed – 28th June 2022



“Williams brings nuance and care to a conversation that often feels impossible to even broach”


The Fellowship, directed by Paulette Randall, sees writer Roy Williams return to the conversation he began with his 2021 play, Death Of England: Delroy : What does it mean to be black and British? Does it mean something different today compared to, say, twenty, or fifty years ago? Has anything changed? Is change even possible?

Three generations of one family, all living in the UK, all struggling to place themselves within a society that has historically and repeatedly tried to reject and diminish them. The trouble with this line of inquiry is not that it’s not compelling or apposite, but that it’s just so big. So, what we end up with is a near-on three-hour play that rarely takes a breather, and struggles to conclude.

Having grown up in the same hard, harsh environment, with a mother (now ailing off-stage) who came to the UK in the Windrush generation, sisters Marcia and Dawn have responded in contrast. As Marcia says, “You’re nothing but trauma, Dawn, you always have been. And I’ve always been a selfish cow.” In other words, Dawn remains an open wound, unable to heal from society’s repeated othering. Whereas Marcia has decided to take what she can, only looking out for herself. But neither have been able to truly break free.

So we look to the next generation, Dawn’s son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard) who is in love with a white woman (Rosie Day), but unable to tell his family who consider her the enemy.

It’s an excellent structure for a discussion on racism, inherited trauma, and generational change. But Williams seems incapable of letting a thought hang in the air. Instead, every conversation is double as long as it should be, tracing and retracing what he said, what she said, what everyone did and when they did it. Three hours of yelling ends up sounding like white noise after a while, and though there are plenty of endearing relational minutiae (the sisters bumping boobs, or dancing to white pop music) latticed amongst the intensity, it’s all delivered at the same turbulent place; there’s rarely a minute to breathe.

Cherrelle Skeete and Suzette Llewellyn have an excellent rapport as sisters, which is all the more impressive given that Skeete has only been rehearsing this part for two weeks- Lucy Vandi had to suddenly withdraw due to ill health. In fact, despite occasional scenes holding the script, Skeete is arguably the strongest cast member, flitting between affection and intense rage with veristic ease.

Libby Watson’s design- Scandi sofas and table encircled by a futuristic LED halo, which glows blue or red in accordance with instructions for Alexa- serves as a clean, modern canvas for the chaotic storyline, and sits in clever contrast to the script’s subject, as old as time: Us and Them.

Williams brings nuance and care to a conversation that often feels impossible to even broach. The casting is clever and fun, and there are multiple moments where the audience finds themselves humming in endorsement. But ultimately it just doesn’t feel finished yet; the script needs a red pen and a harsh eye.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Robert Day


The Fellowship

Hampstead Theatre until 23rd July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | May 2022


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Stitchers – 3.5 Stars



Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 1st June 2018


“an enlightening show from a talented and committed team”


Lady Anne Tree, who died in 2010, was an English aristocrat who became a prison visitor in 1949 after witnessing the devastating effect that a sentence had on a family friend. Having watched soldiers benefit from doing needlework, she wanted to introduce that skill into the prison system and spent three frustrating decades before finally getting government approval. She subsequently founded the Fine Cell Work charity which enables prisoners to build fulfilling and crime free lives by training them to do skilled and creative needlework. Based on Lady Anne Tree’s work, Esther Freud, herself a prison visitor, has written Stitchers allowing us to see up close a world of noise, violence and claustrophobia that few would choose to live in.

Upon entering the compact Jermyn Street Theatre, the audience is faced with an impressive set (Liz Cooke) that creates the feeling of being in a prison. When the lights come up on the opening scene, we experience an ear splitting cacophony of sound with cups and plates banging on the metal grid walls together with shouting, whistle blowing and doors slamming. It is an unpleasant introduction to prison life. When the sound finally subsides we see Lady Anne. It is the late 90s and complete with her bag of wool and material, she meets five prisoners whom we learn more about as the play progresses. Busby – a wheelchair bound repeat offender, Lukasz – a Polish hard man, Len – an ex army lifer, Tommy – a young and angry man on remand and Denise – a transgender woman on recall. The final character is Keith, a prison officer who on the surface is hardened by his years in the system but we see a softer side of him as he suffers domestic unhappiness. Each has a story of frustration and despair that is explored in detail.

Sinéad Cusack stars as Lady Anne. She is an experienced, accomplished actor and is perfect for the role. Many tickets will no doubt be bought by those who want to see her in a theatre where every seat is close to the stage. Michael Nardone is outstanding in his portrayal of Lukasz. He is able to show both the hard and soft side of the character and Ewan Stewart is a terrific warder. 

Whilst there are large number of scenes, director Gaby Dellal manages to keep the piece moving. The lighting (William Reynolds) perfectly accentuates the more sensitive moments whilst the sound (Max Pappenheim) is at times a little aggressive but the use of echo does work well recreating the noise of prison corridors.

Esther Freud is clearly a talented writer who understands her subject well and who should be proud of Stitchers. Overall this was an enlightening show from a talented and committed team.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Robert Workman



Jermyn Street Theatre until 23rd June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018


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