Let There Be Love
Tricycle Theatre January-February and August 2008
Kwame Kwei-Armah's new play turns away from the social commentary of his recent works for a nice, sweet, almost assertively commercial and unthreatening domestic melodrama that delivers its full share of both warm humour and sentimentality.
Though author and production repeatedly flirt dangerously with cliché and soap opera, the play manages to manoeuvre its way past the dangers and deliver a satisfying - if not especially deep or thought-provoking - evening.
The central character, Alfred, is an somewhat frail old Londoner originally from Granada. In the manner of all such men in plays, he hates everything - his daughters, his doctors, Indians, Jamaicans, immigrants, young people. In fact, the only things he does like are his ancient record player and his Nat King Cole records.
His daughters hire a home help worker over his objections, and when the bubbly young Polish woman appears, the play seems set for the familiar odd-couple genre in which they will overcome their original antipathy and she will soften him.
In fact that does happen, but the play moves beyond the cliché by deepening both characters and adding unexpected elements that take us into fresh dramatic territory.
Things turn darker than we expected, then surprisingly lighter, than dark again, generating legitimate chuckles and misty-eyed-ness along the way.
One of the few playwrights who is actually an excellent director of his own work, Kwame Kwei-Armah guides his cast over most of the danger points in his script and toward making the most of its strong moments, both comic and dramatic.
The backbone of the evening is the always admirable Joseph Marcell as Alfred. Almost never offstage, Marcell inhabits the character with ease and mastery, creating and sustaining a reality and roundness that draw us to him.
Lydia Leonard, burdened with a dodgy Polish accent, takes longer to develop her character beyond stereotype, but does get there.
Sharon Duncan-Brewster is more successful than you might think possible in turning what is essentially just a plot device - the daughter who watches her father grow closer to the newcomer than he ever was to her- into a real character.
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Review - Let There Be Love - Tricycle Theatre 2008