Kwame Kwei-Armah’s new play is showing at the Tricycle as part of its “Not Black and White” season. A satire about the choices made by a potential black mayoral candidate for London, the script is erudite and taut, particularly in the second act, and the performances first rate. Star plaudits go to Aml Ammen as Lavelle, a street thug with 11 a-grade GCSEs, a powerful radar for the politics of race and a screamingly obvious humanity. The celebrity candidate, Jeremy, is played with oodles of charm and winning naivety by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, but he makes the right choices in the face of pressure from Karl Collins’ venal kingmaker Howard Jones (not the 80s pop star, one of the characters points out). There are nice touches in the relationships between characters, particularly in the contrast between Jeremy’s sad, broken relationship with his wife Alice (Amelia Lowdell) and his testosterone-fueled affair with Susan (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), the girl who, bucking the trend in politics, really does turn out to be the love of his life.
Slickly directed by the author, the play, for all the humble venue and the lack of truly star names, is a hugely rewarding experience, and unravels black politics for an audience of whatever colour in a way that is effortlessly unpatronising.