We’re glad that The Fellowship has finally opened. Plagued by numerous Covid-related delays, and losing its lead actor Lucy Vandi a week before press night due to ill health, the play has had a rather tumultuous journey to the Hampstead Theatre stage but has finally arrived. The latest offering from playwright Roy Williams – we caught his state-of-the-nation address Death of England at the National Theatre shortly before the pandemic hit – it considers a range of topical issues through the lens of the children of the Windrush generation.
Cherelle Skeete has stepped into the lead role at scarcely a week’s a notice and, if it wasn’t for the occasional appearance of a script on stage, you wouldn’t be able to guess – she’s a force to be reckoned with as middle-aged Dawn. Opposite her is her sister Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn), a barrister who is desperate to distance herself from her past. Over the course of the play we are introduced to the generation that preceded them and the generation that’s following them, and their respective views on the world – it’s certainly an ambitious intergenerational drama.
There’s an awful lot going on, but it’s fascinating to watch. Everything unfolds in Dawn’s modern living room, complete with Alexa-controlled music. We learn about our characters’ lives and events through a series of conversations that unfold: whether we’re deliberating the challenges of post-Brexit Britain, or the sisters are navigating the complexities of Black British identity, it all unfurls rather ordinarily through a chat on the sofa with a cup of tea (or something stronger).
There are a handful of shifts in tone which ensure this two-and-a-half hour play doesn’t become monotonous. Alexa is frequently instructed to play “Dawn’s kitchen playlist” which yields some unexpected musical choices and is often accompanied by a humorous dance routine. There is also one particularly electrifying speech from Dawn where she confesses her love for trashy white pop culture; it’s a real flash of brilliance.
The Fellowship is an impressive theatrical achievement; it presents a thought-provoking and vivid depiction of generational shifts in identity and attitudes. It tackles a wide range of big issues and while not everything is afforded enough space and time to fully develop, it remains an incredibly clever piece of theatre, disguised as a deceptively-simple family drama.
GAY TIMES gives The Fellowship – 4/5
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