Review: NOW, I SEE, Stratford East

Joy radiates in Lanre Malaolu’s visceral exploration of grief in Black British men.

By: May. 17, 2024
Review: NOW, I SEE, Stratford East
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Review: NOW, I SEE, Stratford East In this second installment of Lanre Malaolu’s trilogy (following SAMSKARA, The Yard Theatre), Now, I See shines a light on how the physical body holds grief and the ways in which this manifests in the lives of black British men. As two brothers reunite at their late sibling’s celebration of remembrance, they are forced to rebuild connection after their long-standing estrangement and own up to the redemption they seek.

Kieron holds onto anger like a protective shield while Dayo, his younger brother, is desperate for connection. As they reconnect to childhood memories and patch up missing pieces of the past, we watch the two slowly let down their guard of black masculinity and surrender to the current of emotion that is their grief.

The brothers feel submerged in loneliness but Adeyeye, their late, boxing-loving brother, is on stage watching over them the whole time. He jumps into their colourful, cabaret style flashbacks and joins them in boisterous Power Rangers fights and Usher home concerts. Their boyish joy radiates and their charisma is infectious, all undercut by the stark loneliness of adulthood and reality.

Review: NOW, I SEE, Stratford East

The script is sharp, punchy and full of moments for erupting laughter, however, the beauty of this production lies in the physical moments in between. As their guardian spirit, Adeyeye continuously taps on his chest and curves his hands, a repeated gesture used to try to get through to his brothers. As his brothers try to run away from confrontation, Adeyeye guides them back to each other, and through this dips into beautiful bursts of choreography, giving us a psychological understanding of their journey.

In this way, the overly naturalistic set, with its many chairs and a mop, feels a bit messy, grounding us in reality when we want to be whisked away. However, Ryan Day’s brilliant lighting effectively moves us into the surreal, using lines of fabric to create an ethereal glistening of light; It’s a subtle touch yet absolutely mesmerising.

As Adeyeye, Tendai Humphrey Sitima’s presence on stage is a powerful reminder of the forgiveness the brothers seek, his movements outside of gesture and dance lean too far towards the banal and lack a certain connection to the action on stage. However, when the three brothers do connect, it’s magical and the caliber of performance here is absolutely remarkable. Oliver Alvin-Wilson is all power and protection, yet we still see the smallest glimpse of a softer side and we are rooting for it from the top. Nnabiko Ejimofor shines as the heartfelt younger sibling and constantly blows us away with his rippling break dance.

Review: NOW, I SEE, Stratford East

While the second act starts with a drop in momentum, the final sequence pulls everything together and more. As the brothers finally look at each other, they move towards the casket of water and wash themselves in synchronicity. Under the cathartic music of Stormzy, the movement builds and builds, a beautiful moment of release and redemption as they surrender to the current and cleanse themselves. The curtain closes and we can’t help but see a glimpse of the journey these three beautiful actors have been on in parallel. 

Now, I See is at Stratford East until 1 June

Photo Credit: courtesy of the production


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