TheOrator.Press Theatre Review: ‘Hymn’ ~ August 2021 – Original Production Photos Marc Brenner. Selected & Picture Edited By TheOrator.Press Picture Editor

Mother Country Called On The Empire

Hymn Is Cultural, Soulful, Physical, And Skilful. A Bittersweet, Dark Comedy Drama That Out of Nowhere Suddenly Reaches Up And Grabs You, Shakes You And Reminds You That It’s Dynamics Are Utterly Believable. We Know of It or Versions of It Within Our Culture And If Honest…Within Our Own Families. As Such It Is Very, Very, Very Long Overdue. And At The Same Time It Makes Us Realise Just How Much “The Mother Country” And Its “Migration Policy” Has Impacted The Black Community And Its Sense of Unity…or Disunity.

As With So Many Families & Different People In Society It Is Amazin’ How Different People Can One Set of Facts Totally Differently. For Instance, From Our Perspective (TheOrator.Press) This Is A Tale of A Male Protagonist (Deceased) And A Secret He Took To The Grave. His Ruthless Act of Rejection, Its Consequences And Its Redemption. The Facts Are Brutal, But The Actin’ Skilful, Comical & Beautiful.

Immediately It Grabs You. At Church. Outside. Notwithstandin’ The Widespread, Loneliness & Subsequent Secret Fornication Which Gave Rise To This All To Common Family Phenomenon, Is Far From Godly. The Ungodliness of It Is Not Necessarily On The Part of The  Parties Who Engaged In “Weakness of The Flesh” Many Years Past, But The Systematic Use And Then Abuse of “Caribbean Subjects” By “The Mother Land.” Often Forced Into Economic Weakness And Loneliness As They Uprooted Themselves From Their Own Homes To Travel To England, The Were Often Alone – Initially or Eventually – Before They Found Their Feet And Built Their Own New Families.

“Gil” Played By Adrian Lester In Hymn. Production Photos Marc Brenner. Selected & Picture Edited By TheOrator.Press Picture Editor

Loneliness & Secret Siblings

The Historic Coverin’, Uncoverin’ & Discoverin’ of  Secret Siblings Is All Too Familiar. And Yet Simultaneously Hardly Ever Addressed Openly And Honestly. No Doubt Because of Fear That Such Address Could Only Ever Be Achieved Painfully And Destructively. But Here With Great Writin’ Aplomb The Dynamic Is Brought To The Stage Respectfully And Skilfully By Writer Lola Chakrabati. And Vividly & Humorously Brought To Life By Her Actor Husband Adrian Lester & His Actin’ Partner In This Two-hander, Danny Sapani.

Intriguingly This Play Is Officially Described As The Meetin’ of Two Men Who Form A Lovin’ Friendship That Is Neither Romantic Nor Physical (And By Implication Nor Homosexual). A Bro-mance In Modern Parlance. Frankly However, Given That Both Characters Are Each Other’s Biological Brother, All-be-It Newly Discovered Brothers, Legally The Only Relationship They Could Have Is A Brotherly One. And That Has Nothing’ To Do With Romance Nor Sexuality. The Alternative To Brotherly Love Would Be Incest. And That’s Clearly Not An Option. This Is Not A Bro-mance At All. Ironically The Only Way It Could Be Is If They Were Not Biologically Related. But They Are. So This Is More Black Long Lost Family (And Without Davina or Nicky).

Maybe There Was A Desire To Avoid Bein’ Compared To The Play Blood Brothers. The Play “Hymn” Does Bring To Mind Blood Brothers. For A Second or Two or Few. Purely Because Both Plays Involve Brothers. But This Is “Hymn”. And Havin’ Seen Both Plays They Are Two Different Stories. Black People Have Families And Tales To Tell Too. And It’s About Time We Told Them. So Let’s Just Own It. “Hymn” Is A Tale of Economic Migration, Loneliness & Desire, Pre-Parental Responsibility, Humanity, History, And Journeys Taken Within The Caribbean Community. And The Impact of All These Elements On A Lovin’ Middle Class Black Family. Which Includes Two Newly Discovered Lovin’ Half Brothers.

Loneliness & Secret Siblings

“Benny” Played By Danny Sapani In Hymn. Production Photos Marc Brenner. Selected & Picture Edited By TheOrator.Press Picture Editor

Brotherly Love

But of Course, As Already Mentioned In This Life And In So Many Families, We Can All See Things Differently. But That’s How TheOrator.Press Saw It. And Loved It!

The Brothers Are Chalk & Cheese. It Is Brother Benny Who Uncovers The Truth & Breaks The News. A Resistant Gil Rejects The Painful Revelation. But Eventually There Comes A Shift And The Brothers Travel Down ‘Nostalgia Avenue’ Musically Re-livin’ Their Journeys Into Middle Age. Their Connection Is Clear. The Music Is Great. And The Audience Loved It And Couldn’t Help But Dance. And Props’ To The Costume Department (Pun Intended!). That Jacket With The Fancy Linin’ Looked Tasty On Benny, And He Modelled It Nicely. Quite Rightly. A Fresh Enterprise, New Outlook & Smoother Image Might Just Seal Brotherly Bond. But There’s A Twist! And Once Again This Play Grabs You. Shakes You. And Wakes You. Literally!

Havin’ Worked In The Dramatic, Demandin’ High End World of Fine-Dinin’ Durin’ Student Days And Been Trained To Move Around The Classiest & Busiest of Restaurant Floors With Grace, One Aspect That Stood Out Most Was The Skilful Way The Two Actors Negotiated Their Own Stage Space In Such A Physical Way, In This Very Physical Play. And All In The Mist of A Pandemic Featurin’ ‘Social Distancin’ As A New Dynamic. It Is Clear That In Addition To Great Direction, Hours of Choreography, Fitness And Movement Trainin’ Were Also Invested Into This Play & It’s Actors. These Two Middle Age Men Were Confident, Movin’ And Groovin’ With Muscles Bulgin’ (Addin To The Physicality, Believability And Laughability of Their Respective Characters. Particularly Benny’s, Given His Profession).

Behind The Scences Secrets With The Cast, Writer & Director ~ Adrian Lester, Danny Sapani, Lolita Chakrabarti And Blance McIntyre Courtesy of The Almeida Theatre On YouTube February 2021. Later The Same Day Adrian Appeared On Graham Norton’s Friday Night Talk Show To Announce The Play’s Streamin’ Event In The Midst of Lockdown. Tickets Sold Out Like Hot Cakes Virtually Straight Away. Such Was The Demand It Was Streamed Again In March. We Think It Would Make A Great Black British History Educational Tool & TV Broadcast.

Wonderfully Educational, Entertainin’ & Engagin’ Black British History Lesson

Symptomatic of These Pandemic Times “Hymn” Was Streamed By The Almeida Theatre Earlier This Year. No Sooner Was The Play Mentioned By Adrian Lester On The Graham Norton Chat Show February 12 2021 It Was Sold Out. So They Streamed It Again. And Then It Sold Out Again! Let’s Hope They Stream It Yet Again As Its Scheduled Run Is Rather Short, Just As Theatre-Goers Are Allowed Out Again As The Lockdown Lifts.

This Is A Classic, Classy And Cultural Piece of Theatre. Different Sections of Society Can Learn So Much From It If They Were To Use It As An Entertainin’ Learnin’ Tool For Societal Progress. It Is Both Historical And Simultaneously So Very Very Contemporary, As Post Floyd Modernity Demands More Lessons About “Black British” History. This Story Starts Way Back When The Mother Land Appealed To Its Empire For More Labour And A Father Subsequently Later Chose One Son Over The Other. It Demonstrates How The Legacy of Empire Impacted Black Families Forever – With Varyin’ Degrees of Destruction And Damnation. There’s Great Humour, Great Music, And Great Love Along The Way. And World Class Actin’ And Production And Facination All Around. Ultimately We Learn It’s Amazin’ How Things Can Turnaround. Sometimes Sadly. Sometimes Happily.

In This Pandemic Era Where Thespian Powers Have Had To Reimagine Theatre, Let Us Pray That This Great Hymn Is Allowed To Lift Us Up Time & Again. Through Streamin, Filmin’ Or Television Broadcasts. Amen To A Great Cultural, Powerful, Triumphant And Important Production. And Hopefully To Less Systematic, Economic, International, Lonely, But Necessary Separation – Causin’ People To Find Themselves In Situations Where They Have To Make Legacy Makin’ or Breakin’ Decisions. Alas, Sometimes As We Know, History Has A Way of Repeatin’ Itself.

Buff’ Brothers. Production Photos Marc Brenner. Selected & Picture Edited By TheOrator.Press Picture Editor.

A Little Back Story

Writer Lolita Chakrabarti Graduated From RADA In 1990 And Played WPC Jamil Blake In The Bill From 1994 To 1996. It Is Currently Showin’ On The Drama Channel Sky Box 143 And UKTV Play. Copy The Link Below To Listen To A Great Two Part Interview With Oliver Crocker In The Bill Podcast Recently. In June 2021 She Received An OBE For Services To Drama. And From August She Features In Another Investigation Series Appearin’ In A New 6 Week BBC Submarine Thriller Called Vigil. It Also Stars Suranne Jones of Dr. Foster Fame. Sun Nights 9.00pm From August 26 2021.

Actor Adrian Lester (Pictured Left) Has Been Married To Lolita For Over 30 Years. He Has Starred In A Number of Her Productions Includin’ Hymn of Course, And Red Velvet (As Photographed Here By Marc Brenner). Red Velvet Won Chakrabarti The Evening Standard & Critics Circle Most Promising Playwright Award In 2012. And In 2019 She Won Both The 2019 What’s On Stage And UK Theatre Award For Best New Play For Life of Pi. This Was Followed By Her Play ‘Calmer’ In 2020. Lester Is Very Recognisable From The BBC’s Hit Fantastical Charmin’ Crime Caper Hustle In Which He Played The Character Mickey Stone. He’s A Black Belt Martial Arts Graduate. Nuff’ Said. For Now! Watch This Space.

Thespian Danny Sapani (Pictured Right) Trained At The Weekend Arts College London & The Central School of Speech & Drama And Is Now A Revered Actor Ever In Demand In The World of Theatre, Film & Television. Recently He Appeared In The 2018 Disney Movie Game Changer Black Panther. And He Was In Wonderfully Rude Health In The Period Drama & Georgian Sex Romp Harlots (Pictured Right) Which Brought Great Light Relief To Many Durin’ Lockdown 2020. So Much So The BBC Knowingly Screened Both Series Back To Back.

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