Never seen a play so earnestly heart breaking. I had high expectations going in which usually makes me weary because, being a critic, the worst feeling is being disappointed. Especially by someone as big a deal as Lenny Henry who has been entertaining the nation since the 70s. He’s been a big deal for so long it’s easy to forget why. Well, this play will tell you why.
As I write in my little notebook on my way home, the little notebook I use to scribble my notes in semi-darkness during shows, I reflect on the fact that I didn’t even take my notebook out of my bag, not until I’ve sat down on my second tube home on the burring Jubilee Line, commuters packed like sardines, our arms touching both sides at the surprisingly busy train hurtling us to East London late on a Tuesday evening. Why? Coz I needed a moment. As Lenny too takes a brief moment to bow at the end of his show to an audience who applauded him before he had even set foot on stage. I heard someone say “Look!” like they couldn’t quite believe that he was there, few steps away from us. We rose to applaud him at the end as he stands in the back corner of the stage as humble as anything. He gestures at the screen which tells us to feel free to take a moment if we need it.
I’m not for the first time reminded of On the Ropes by Vernon Vanriel and Dougie Blaxland earlier this year at the Park Theatre where after the show my friend and I sat, so moved and prefixed by what had occurred that the Front of House staff had to usher us out (read my review here). It felt wrong then, so it felt right now that the team have anticipated the needs of the people who have taken the story on. I don’t need a moment in the space though, after 100 minutes in the same spot sipping on my rum and coke, I need the bathroom. And I came alone this time. And this story hits me harder. I almost cry several times. I feel choked up with tears that won’t fall.
I’m not Caribbean but the story of our parents coming to England in the hopes of a better life is something all children of former colonies will relate to (God knows what happened to the likes of our prime minister). Our fathers left first with promises to send for us once they’ve figured out the lay of the land. And they fucked up like fathers are prone to do. My father did. Conceived in Sylhet I only arrived in London with my mother at the age of two… three years later. August arrived in London as an 8-year-old. So you see why this story hits me hard? I see myself in August. It could have been me being thrown in the back of a van. It could be any of us at the rate this country is going. So I’m unable to give you the review you came for. I’m too overcome. I’m surprised I have any words at all coz all I want to do right now is cry and rage at the world. I’m angry too but for now, I need a moment.
Written by by Tasnim Siddiqa Amin.
Follow Tasnim on Instagram: @tasnimsiddiqaamin, Twitter: t_siddiqa_amin & WordPresshttps://tasnimsiddiqamin.wordpress.com/
August in England is currently showing until Saturday 10th June 2023 at the Bush Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…