Image: Drayton Arms Theatre
Cristal Cole - GISELLE
Freddy Gaffney - GILES
Hassan Govia - DEVIN
Natali Servat - DAHLIA
Peter Silva - COURTNEY
Maria Yarjah - JOSLYN
'I dunno how you lot got Devin to be all hostin' and shit cos some of us didn't even know dis place was a ting.'
Entertainment blogger Devin hosts a housewarming at his new, luxury apartment.
But when the evening is derailed by the intrusion of some uninvited guests, he is forced to defend himself from accusations suggesting that his newfound prosperity has made him too 'boujie'.
Set in post-Brexit London, Hassan Govia's debut play is a lively, character-driven comedy that addresses the impact of professional and financial success on personal relationships, delving into matters of loyalty, class, career pressures and monetary contentions.
As I understand it, 'boujie' is a slang term, often used for a pretentious lifestyle or a person who aspires to acquire one.
The term is directed in this debut play from Hassan Govia at the central character, Devin, played here by the author.
Devin is an entertainment blogger - the kind whose popularity rakes-in considerable quantities of cash largely through advertising.
His online persona, though, is known only by a nickname, so that the public don't know his real identity.
It's a Friday night when we meet Devin in his newly-acquired, swanky flat as his friends start to assemble for an end of week evening of guzzling champagne and eating take-away.
The social gathering starts off amicably enough, but things take a turn for the worse when a pushy neighbour forces himself on proceedings, and later when Devin's mouthy sister fetches up, having only just discovered that Devin has found himself a new swish abode.
Though the play is described as a comedy, it really isn't.
The audience in its entirety only managed a couple of vague chuckles during the entire 90 minutes or so duration.
The situations that arise could certainly deliver more in the way of humorous moments, but it never felt like the playwright's intentions were really comedic and the direction failed to exploit the situations to milk them for laughs.
So the enterprise turns out to be largely serious, though it's hard to isolate the main themes when we find so many flooding the drama almost like water pouring from a dam when someone has opened the valves to drain it.
That lends a rambling tone to the concept and some aspects of the plot are odd if not a little weird.
The continual appearance of Giles the neighbour felt wholly contrived and started to nudge events into the hinterlands of the ludicrous (even if it's explained later on).
Similarly, the arrival of Devin's sister out of the blue seemed to fall into the same category - but neither of those characters managed to inject some infectious humour.
At the end, we find a final statement along the lines that "blood is thicker than water", introducing an unnecessary note of sentimentality.
Having said all of that, the play and the playing actually get better as the plot develops, and there's some grittiness in later scenes with interesting and important ideas surfacing, such as how much we tell our friends about our financial status, and how much responsibility we have for the economic well-being of our families and friends.
With some judicious editing and pruning the play could work much more effectively, and it's certainly worth investing extra development time because the characters and some of the issues have worthy potential if the work can find the right balance of humour and drama.
Moreover, there's clear evidence here in terms of the overall level of talent and commitment in both the writing department and acting that suggests that we haven't seen the last of this company - Unshaded Arts - and that its best days are still ahead of it.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Drayton Arms Theatre
Our show listing for Boujie
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