August In England by Lenny Henry
Bush Theatre May 4th - June 10th
Review by Plays Playlist
Waiting in Vain - Bob Marley
August Henderson has many great loves throughout the play; Clarice, Vilma, Roisin, his children, parents, even the red-haired woman he caught his father with when him and his mother first arrived to their new home in Peckham after leaving Kingston. His relationships are different with each one of course but they all support August in various ways; at the root of their place in his life we can see his own love and endurance reciprocated back to him. They help August cope with his own outcomes; Clarice pursues him to settle down and raise a family, Roisin brings him joy although he never initiated anything intimate until a suggestive dance at his party in which Laurence and Clarice observed and Velma, a new love which sprung after the mourning of Clarice.
'From the very first time I blessed my eyes on you, girl… My heart says follow through’.
'So don't treat me like a puppet on a string, cause I know how to do my thing… // Ya see, in life I know there's lots of grief… But your love is my relief’
We've chosen the above two lyrics as we feel they best sum up August’s endurance throughout the play. This could be the endurance he has for the loves of his life and how he’ll always be there to support and care for them, even though he may stray or act out of character. There’s also the nuances of life being difficult and uncertain but love can easily make any situation less strenuous.
I will - John Holt
This hauntingly beautiful song truly sums up the notions of home and family which are prevalent throughout the play. With it, the sweet melodies of John Holt’s timeless classic ring true as well as the lyrics which highlight the love and loss of something or someone important:
‘Who knows that I have found you,
Will know I love you still.
Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to I will,
August Henderson is dealt many misfortunes throughout the play, one of which is August having to witness his father’s adultery only to then succumb to the same fate years later... only this time, the outcome is far more severe. For this, the lyric ‘It's not easy to be near you… For the things you do that brings me to you, ah, you know I will’ really holds true to August’s desire for the simple pleasures and joys but the bittersweet realisation that his actions will be accounted for. The chorus ‘Love you forever and forever… Love you with all my heart. Love you whenever we're together… Love you when we're apart’ strikes me as it syncs so well with August’s genuine love for his family and close ones. He loves his wife, parents, children, Vilma and friends who all, at some point or other, are there to support him and help with his development throughout the play; either as comical relief or by outlining how his actions has caused great pain towards them. I think it’s important to outline how the direction of Lynette Linton and Daniel Bailey is so clever as the comedy doesn’t overshadow Lenny Henry’s hilarious yet tender storytelling. We are all on August’s journey. He isn’t ignorant or indifferent, as he has a pure sense of duty to his loved ones and home, which we later understand is being taken away from him by no fault of his own. It’s also a precious nod to a key moment near the end of the play where August says his final goodbyes to his family and home, even though they are not in the same space as them due to his untimely detention.
Get Busy - Sean Paul
In a PlaysPlaylist first we were able to ask the incredible Duramaney Kamara to sum up his sound work on the show in one song and he came back with Sean Paul's Get Busy... and we absolutely get it! Just as Paul's instantly recognisable track is truly bombastic. Its banging bass line, incredibly catchy melody and intoxicating lyrical flow are full of flair and precision and it is a wonderfully accurate metaphor for Kamara's work on this show. The sound design beautifully accents and underscores the show, providing moments of playfulness, pain and pleasure, sometimes transitioning seamlessly from one into the other. We won't spoil it entirely but Say My Name by Destiny's Child is one example of this, and Kamara's use of the track is masterful. The design work on this show is oozes finesse; it is a real masterclass to take in. Kamara couldn't have summed it up better himself... he really was Getting Busy!
Fall Creek Boys Choir - James Blake and Bon Ivor
I've been down to the open road… And we both end up alone (and if only we could have known)’
First of all, Jai Morjaria needs ALL the flowers! His lighting work impacted the performance and its narrative profoundly; you couldn’t get one without the other and Morjaria even uses specific specials, tones and even specially designed LED lights in the backdrop of the set to spotlight key moments incredibly effectively. From pangs of love to strains of sorrow, Morjaria cleverly uses light to showcase the cracks in August's facade and allows us to see him slowly beginning to unravel towards the end of the show. Simply genius! This song is chosen to highlight the sorrow represented throughout the performance but also how reminiscent they are when August highlights moments of joy:‘
All went in the fire… Drowning in the sea… A red dawn… Oh, red font. Caught up in the sea… All went in the sea… If only, if only’
There’s a striking moment where the lighting reveals the initial set is a disguise; we realise after a flash that August was isolated in a detention room the entire time, unfortunately waiting to be deported. The clashes and bangs throughout this song, to me, represent the moments where reality hits. This then provides a chilling contrast to the love and safety of his home and his awaiting fate and we are also teleported to the reality created by both set designer Natalie Pryce and video designer Gino Ricardo Green.
Turn Your Lights Down Low - Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill
It would be remiss of us to not mention the beautiful simplicity of Natalie Pryce's work on the Set and Costume design. When you first enter the space it's warm and inviting. A simple set up of an old leather armchair and footstool, a coffee table laden with a tray of drinks and an old record stand with record player sat atop. The scene set by Pryce is incredibly familiar to many of us who hail from a Caribbean background as I'm sure you would recognise this set up in one of your family members living rooms (if you know you know!) The attention to detail amongst its simplicity is gorgeous to take in and it holds a perfect harmony with Morjaria's lighting work. Its soothing, nostalgic nature instantly reminded us of this classic made by Bob Marley and Lauren Hill. The musical landscape is lush and inviting with sultry vocals, stripped back drums and characterful guitar riffs. The minute you hear the first phrase "Turn your lights down low" The song lulls you into a rhythm that makes you want to recline and relax and once you're there you don't want the song to end, much like the work Pryce has put into her gorgeous set.
Brown Skin - India Irie
Punkie - Sean Paul