Bola Agbaje's first play Gone Too Far! wins an Olivier award
“You don’t know what to identify yourself with. Should you be on the white side, should you be on the black side — you don’t know… You are SO confused!”
Bola Agbaje’s first play Gone Too Far! won an Olivier award for outstanding achievement after premiering February last year as part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival. Her vibrant writing spans a contemporary slice of multicultural society with attitude, while Bijan Sheibani’s direction adds energy and edge.
Gone Too Far! has an almost picaresque scenario and a deceptively simple plot. Two brothers, one brought up in Nigeria and one on a London council estate, go on a mission to buy a pint of milk. As they cross the estate, they encounter other teenagers, a protective Bangladeshi shopkeeper and an elderly woman terrified of the brothers.
The characters are engaging and flawed, giving a compassionate core to this play and are played with aplomb by a mainly young cast. Tobi Bakare is the likeable Yemi, an adrift teenager of Nigerian origin and London values. Other characters include his brother Ikudayisi (Tunji Lucas) who has a more grounded sense of identity, Flamer (Marcus Onilude), who is powerful in the tribal politics of the estate but also has a stable pragmatism, the confrontational firebrand Armani (Zawe Ashton) and her gentler, sensible friend Paris (Bunmi Mojekwu).
The teenagers bandy prejudices and misconceptions, discussing identity, ancestry and self-knowledge. Talking from within their own limited perspectives, we have a fairly naturalistic exploration of the themes of diversity and conformity. The pressure to fit in contradicts their own uniqueness, as Yemi states, “In order to get along on this estate, in this country, you need to stop being you.” From this debate emerges a relatively simplistic, if pertinent, message: that you can only be free if you embrace own unique heritage.
Reflecting the energetic writing are interludes of modern dance, in-between the scenes of dialogue. In an exciting piece of direction, these are speechless, choreographed movements of swagger, violence and suspicion. Mimicking fights in a shadowy world, they replay the dynamics of the previous scene and extend the portrayal of the characters’ emotions.
This lively, well-directed piece is certainly relevant to today’s society, not least because of the current preoccupation with knife crime in London. Showcasing characters created with affection and an eye for realism, Agbaje’s play about individualism reaches the verge of tragedy, only to rein in the violence and recklessness and end on an ultimately redemptive and hopeful message.
Gone Too Far
Written by Bola Agbaje
Directed by Bijan Sheibani
Director: Bijan Sheibani
Designer: James Cotterill
Lighting Designer: Nicki Brown
Sound Designer: Emma Laxton
Choreography: Aline David
Running Time: One hour 25 minutes without an interval
Closed at the Royal Court on 9th August 2008
The Royal Court
London SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
Reviewed by Charlotte Loveridge at the Royal Court on 28th July 2008