Let There Be Love @ Tricycle Theatre, London

cast list
Sharon Duncan-Brewser
Lydia Leonard
Joseph Marcell

written and directed by
Kwame Kwei-Armah
Kwame Kwei-Armah’s previous three plays Elmina’s Kitchen, Fix Up and Statement of Regret have all been set within the African Caribbean community and dealt with death and remorse. Now he has written and directed an elegant elegy for a generation of aging immigrants; a play of hope and aspiration for the wave of new settlers who arrive in our damp but not unpleasant land.

Joseph Marcell (of Fresh Prince of Bel Air fame) plays grumpy, old Alfred. When he injures his leg in an accident, his daughter Gemma tries to help him. But this has only resulted in her being subjected to lectures, arguments and much cursing – and when she suggests that he should be living with her sister Janet the atmosphere chills considerably. She further outrages him when she informs him that a home help has been arranged for him.

His carer turns out to be a pretty, young Polish woman. After some initial hostility, Alfred starts to see the advantage of her services. This odd couple provide the basis for some acute social observations. She explains that she keeps an old phone on her so she isn’t a target for muggers, he wrongly assumes she is complaining about black urban youth. But her way of cutting through Alfred’s misanthropy, leaves him amusingly lost for words. Eventually, after some entertaining scenes depicting the clash of cultures, the focus of the play shifts to her desire to learn how to become English.

Lydia Leonard plays Maria with boundless energy and perfect Polish accent. Somehow she conveys the cyclical nature of struggle and hurt in her past whilst also exuding boundless joy and selflessness.

While she is a vibrant figure, upbeat and full of life, Alfred, in contrast, is preparing himself for death. Marcell invests the role with dignity and a strong sense of remorse. He boldly puffs out his chest, but his stooped shoulders betray the weight of regret.

Set entirely in the dreary front room of Alfred’s west London home, the set is decorated in a very West Indian, 1980s style: brown florid wallpaper and a giant gramophone called Lily that takes pride of place against the facing wall. Indeed, the stage design and lighting speak volumes about Alfred as a character. The view of the twee and claustrophobic master bedroom acts as a constant reminder of his lost wife and his current loneliness a subtle yet evocative touch.

Less overtly political than Kwame Kwei-Armah’s recent work for the National, this a warmer and more personal play, human and poignant. It says less about cross-cultural relations than about the essential connections between human beings, and is all the more wonderful for that.

No related posts found...