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Now, I See | Stratford East

Now, I See, which is written and directed by Lanre Malaolu, is a beautiful deep dive into processing grief and guilt. When two brothers Dayo (Nnabiko Ejimofor) and Kieron (Oliver Alvin-Wilson) reunite to celebrate the life of their late younger brother Adeyeye (Tendai Humphrey Sitima), they begin to reminisce about their childhood.


The choreography of movement (Lanre Malaolu) is flawless, flowing so naturally and yet indescribably unlike anything else, as the characters present their raw emotions. Often used to accompany character monologues, moments of grand revelations, or when the emotions are so heavy that words can no longer do them justice, one cannot look away. A particularly impressive moment is Ejimofor becoming a helpless dying bird. The movement is so fluid, particularly when used to move the story through time, with the three actors effortlessly becoming one body and entity. 


The three performers, Ejimofor, Alvin-Wilson and Humphrey Sitima, are each stunning, commanding the stage and space. Humphrey Sitima as the late Adeyeye has a looming presence as he lingers in the minds and eyes of the two brothers. Presented mostly as a silent figure, only occasionally co-existing with his brothers during flashbacks, he does a commendable job, making his longing, guilt and frustration clear. Alvin-Wilson as the eldest brother bravely takes up a conflicted character. With mysteries, regrets, and secrets at his core, the slow chipping away at his guard is moving. The hefty dialogue and emotional burden that he grapples with throughout feels natural and the depth of every word is so carefully measured and striking. The subtle shifts from child to adult is heartbreaking and Alvin-Wilson does a terrific job at these small changes. Ejimofor is revolutionary, initially interjecting such life and warmth into his jovial character, he later juxtaposes this with a world weary wisdom and the hurt of an abandoned child. His gift for movement and physicality is stunning to watch. The character progression is mesmerising as the hardship creeps in, resulting in a fine tuned adult whose vulnerability and honesty leaves the audience choked with tears. 



Malaolu is a wordsmith, delicately balancing the empowering moments of innocence and love with a crippling and painful sting of anger, regret and guilt. He plays with the rawness and complexity of human relationships well, with each word being so deliberate and precise and doesn't waste a second of the show. The show is an emotional rollercoaster, with hilarious moments of breaking the fourth wall and sibling antics, to heart-wrenching moments of suspended grief. The show features hard hitting truths, memorable quotes, inspiring lines and just the space to be accepted and grow. The show also has conversations about race in this narrative, and the distinctive variations in coping, healing and hurting that black men feel.


The use of stage, sound and lighting are particularly brilliant and unique. The stage (Ingrid Hu) is relatively empty, with only a large water tank present. The vastness of this void is particularly striking with the illuminating of only the three actors (Ryan Day). The contrast of the bright illumination with the stark black stage, makes the stage feel infinite and the characters lost and found all at once. This changes significantly in the flashbacks, with warm colourful lighting (even a red and blue light saber) makes an appearance. The show's transitions are so quick and sharp, yet never confusing. Sound is used well in the play, grounding it in location with the use of sectioned audio dripping through (Pär Carlsson). The show also uses songs to great effect, ranging from a playful "Under The Sea" from Disney's The Little Mermaid and "Super Star" by Usher, to a powerful "Give It to the Water" by Stormzy.  


Now, I See is an eye-opening, majestic and moving play about grief. It is currently playing at the Stratford Royal East Theatre until June 1st. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5*)


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Camilla Greenwell

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