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The Fellowship

Roy Williams (playwright)

Hampstead Theatre 

(21 June- 23 July 2022)

Review by Amanda Vilanova


‘It’s never good news when a man in a suit speaks to an audience before a show…’ said the man in a suit who told a buzzing audience at the Hampstead Theatre that Cherelle Skeete, the lead actor in this production of Roy Williams’ play The Fellowship, had only had a week’s rehearsal and would have script in hand as she stepped up to cover Lucy Vandi who had fallen ill. The announcement added an element of thrill as the lights came down on a set with a circular staircase and modern living room.

Dawn Adams has a lot going on. She is taking care of an ill mother, a touring musician partner who comes and goes like the wind and Jermaine, a son moving further away from her by the minute. To complicate things, her sister Marcia is having an affair with a white, married MP. Their mother’s shadow hangs over the sisters, who were taught to work twice as hard to be as good as their white contemporaries. The Fellowship explores the lives of a mother of the Windrush generation and her daughters. The first 20 minutes didn’t entice me, until the mention of Darryl, Dawn’s son killed in an incident two years before. It seems a white girl Darryl was seeing at the time may have been involved, and Jermaine is now perhaps in a relationship with her.

This family epic tells an intergenerational story that is current and important; one an audience can relate to regardless of nationality or skin colour. The racial dynamics are interesting and the push and pull between parents’ legacies and their children’s philosophy of life ring true. It also explores racial relations within post-Brexit UK and how they can manifest in discrimination from both sides.

There were some excellent scenes in the piece, but it seemed a draft away from being boiled down to its essential elements. This made the important themes being explored less impactful. Some of the performances were playing more emotion than was necessary for them to truthfully depict the characters’ journeys. Lines delivered directly to the audience were inconsistent with the realism of the piece and the variety of performance styles jarred at points. Cherelle Skeete, however, was present and in the moment scene after scene, giving a tour de force performance as Dawn regardless of having a script in hand.

The performance and writing are at their best when the play moves seamlessly between drama and comedy. We relish watching Dawn’s private moments: dancing with her sister to ‘lame’ music; letting go of her façade of strength and showing us grief and desperation, followed by a killer one-liner. She carries the weight of an entire family, but at what cost to herself?

Some editing would have made this a shorter and more poignant piece. However, the conflict between generations is an ever-present issue, not only within the Windrush generation, who continue to fight for their place in the United Kingdom, but across so many groups and causes that one is drawn into the story.