Playwright Charlene James is currently receiving acclaim for her play Cuttin’ It, about female genital mutilation, at the Young Vic, but she’s also found the time to create a new commission for RADA in association with tiata fahodzi, Britain’s leading African theatre company. Bricks and Pieces, according to the blurb on the RADA website, is about “the places we escape into, the other worlds we build and the icons we cling to”.
The action takes place in Tobi’s flat, which he shares with his boyfriend Gabe, who is obsessed with building intricate models out of Lego. Tobi’s cousin Mya turns up on the doorstep, recently separated from her husband, her exuberant and outgoing personality causing tension in her relationship with her morose, withdrawn cousin. The story looks at how their relationship develops, complicated by the entrance of Gabe’s brother later in the play, and we gradually learn about what happened between Tobi and Gabe.
The play is about hopes and dreams: Tobi, a teacher, loves Gabe and wants to be with him forever, while Gabe himself dreams of making an Eiffel Tower out of Lego bricks. Mya wants to get ‘HerStory’ off the ground, a project which sees her perform plays about significant black women from history (incidentally, this is a great idea and someone needs to get on it, pronto). It’s very well-written, a sensitive exploration of grief and break-ups, while also being very funny at times.
The cast of four RADA students do a fantastic job, delivering superb performances. They are definitely ones to watch for the future. The play is well directed by Natalie Ibu with an effective modern set by Amelia Jane Hankin. My only slight criticism of this play was that the last scene felt somewhat anticlimactic – overall, however, it’s a moving, important piece of theatre.