The Lonely Londoners ★★★★ Jermyn Street Theatre | Feb 29 - Apr 6, 2024

Sam Selvon's novel takes the abstract notion of the Windrush Generation and tells that story through the lens of the individual lives and personal histories of four men who come to London to find their fortune. It is a complex and moving saga as we come to know Moses who acts as the conduit to the promised land and new arrival, Galahad (Romario Simpson), who brings a pure heart to his quest for the British utopia. These stories are complemented by those of the impractical and easily led Big City (Gilbert Kyem Jnr) and the insecure and volatile Lewis. We follow the four friends as they navigate the racism and intolerance they experience while seeking a home in this cold, inhospitable environment. Their alienation is made positively palpable, even as they come to embrace the city that ostracises them. In an interesting reversal however, it is the audience who is called upon to adapt when we enter the world of these characters and must become attuned to their richly versatile creolised dialect. As Moses, who is haunted by the memory of his lost love played by Aimee Powell, Gamba Cole puts in a magnetic performance. His apparent control and inner pain are nicely matched by Tobi Bakare's Lewis whose anguish is always on full display. Shannon Hayes playing Lewis' wife and Carol Moses playing his mother bring some welcome moments of humour to the rather dark proceedings. Selvon's novel covers a lot of territory, and Roy Williams' adaptation sometimes seems rather truncated. The paean to London at the conclusion seems to come out of nowhere. Rather than squeezing this complex work into a lengthy single act it might have been better to divide the piece into two acts and give more time to developing the characters and their stories. Nevertheless, The Lonely Londoners is a touching evocation not just of a point in history; it personalises the painful issues that still plague our society today.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Alex Brenner

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