The world premiere of Roy Williams’ play, ‘The Fellowship’, comes to Hampstead Theatre. Directed by Paulette Randall, the family drama follows two sisters, with little in common other than family.

Credit: Robert Day

Dawn and Marcia Adams are children of the Windrush Generation and grew up in 1980s London, where they played a part in activism. Throughout the play, personal and political issues are explored. With sisterhood being at the forefront, Roy Williams showcases great writing and strong themes on race, class, and identity. Williams has done well to depict a complex family dynamic and the multiple layers the main characters have. The characters portray three generations of British West Indians and throughout the play, we learn significant and similar events that took place for each generation.

Marcia, played by Susan Llewellyn, is a barrister whose affair with a married MP jeopardises the future of her career. Dawn, played by Cherrelle Skeete, struggles to look after their dying mother and fears her son is drifting away from her. Skeete and Llewellyn have great chemistry onstage. Their performance as sisters was endearing to see and together, they embody sisterhood perfectly. The two differ in how they speak and dress – Marcia in formal attire with heels, Dawn in jeans and trainers – and they have playful, bantering sisterhood energy. Marcia has a cool and calm demeanour, while Dawn tends to snap more easily. I found their scenes together were the strongest and especially enjoyed their dance sequences.

The set design, by Libby Watson, is simple; with a sweeping staircase in the background. The scenes mainly take place in the family living room. The circular stage and lighting resembles the virtual assistant, Alexa, and lights up whenever the characters play music.

Credit: Robert Day

I enjoyed how William’s incorporated humour into the play, despite the serious topics. Trevor Laird’s performance as Tony is one that provided several comical moments, with his tongue-in-cheek comments.

The notion of identity and the complexities Dawn faces comes to play as she battles her divided loyalty and questions her commitment to activism over the years. Dawn and her musician boyfriend, Tony, express their disdain for Marcia’s interracial relationship with a married politician, implying she is a ‘sell-out’. This is further exacerbated after a run in with Simone, a young white girl who is dating Dawn’s son, Jermaine. Their intense interaction is where we learn that a racially aggravated assault led to the death of Dawn’s first child, Darryl.

Credit: Robert Day

I feel the additional storylines and multiple themes made the show far too long and at times, difficult to engage with. I appreciated the context and seeing how each story wrapped up, but I believe it should have been shortened.

We can assume that Dawn’s character is fierce and bold, but the second Act shows a more vulnerable side to her. The sisters’ mother, Sylvia, is introduced in a hallucination sequence, which I was not expecting! I really liked the conversation between Dawn and Sylvia, played by Yasmin Mwanza, as we learn more about their estranged relationship. The mother/daughter duo have a back-and-forth spat, where Sylvia acknowledges the sacrifices the Windrush Generation had to make to survive. It ends with Sylvia encouraging an emotional Dawn to ‘do her best’.

We learn even more about Dawn’s personal identity – from her secret musical taste in Take That and Kylie, to celebrity crushes – all which she fears are contradictions because she is Black. In her impassioned speech to Tony, it is evident that Dawn is tired of ‘fighting’ and has been struggling to be her true self. I applaud Skeete’s ability to perform as the character of Dawn at such short notice, she learned the role in just over 1 week! It was initially difficult to envision them as a middle-aged woman, however, this did not distract from the plot, and they did a fantastic job.

Overall, I enjoyed Roy William’s play. Important themes were highlighted, themes that are still relevant in our society today and I loved how music was used during the show. The cast all performed with so much emotion, with the standouts being Skeete and Llewellyn.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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