Half-Empty Glasses is another world premiere from Paines Plough, written by Channel 4 bursary winner Dipo Baruwa-Etti. Using the same three cast members as the other two world premieres, A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain and The Ultimate Pickle.

This play centres around Toye (Samuel Tracy), a schoolboy with a gift for playing piano. Toye’s father has Parkinson’s and has recently had to stop working due to this. Toye is practising piano nonstop in preparation for an audition to get a musical scholarship to a private school.

The Lighting Design by Rory Beaton is used beautifully whenever Toye is playing the piano. The lights above change in time with the notes that Toye is playing. This is accompanied by the movement of Toye being lost in the music, choreographed by Yami Löfvenberg. Giving the effect of Toye being entranced and lost in the music.

Toye and his friends Ash (Sara Hazemi) and Rem (Princess Khumalo) notice the lack of Black History included in their school’s curriculum. Basically, they are taught about Martin Luther King, and that’s all. So Toye decides to start his own Black History classes after school for other pupils.

Soon Toye is spreading himself too thinly, spending every spare moment reading about Black History and trying to still practice piano and complete homework. Toye decides he wants to be an activist and needs to ‘fill his glasses’ by devouring every book on Black History he can. Toye only focuses on British Black History and is adamant to not include other minorities or black people from other countries. This part of the story did not make much sense to me. I couldn’t understand why Toye would want to exclude others in the same way Black History was already largely excluded in the school’s curriculum. He even says, “I don’t want to all lives matter this”.

Towards the end of the show, we see Toye’s audition, in which he simply plays the piano and is no longer lost in the music, the usual movement is absent now. A symbol that he feels defeated as his teachers and father have told him to stop his unofficial classes and concentrate on his schooling and piano. I feel that this dismantled Toye’s development throughout the show. And now everything he’d set out to achieve and was doing had to stop as he was moving to a private school.

Tracy plays Toye beautifully, the storytelling abilities of this cast are amazing, and kept me hooked throughout. I just had some issues with the material of Half-Empty Glasses, in particular the ending wasn’t the satisfying conclusion I had hoped for. But this is still a beautiful performance to behold.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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