We have all had that moment when we were teens that we thought DAMN! Everything is about to change life is about to hit me between the eyes.
Little Baby Jesus allows us an insight into those very moments in the lives of three teens whose decisions made purely through naivety bring them to these moments that will forever change their lives. I always enjoy watching a play where the characters are allowed to engage with their audience drawing them into the story, making them a part of the performance and we are introduced to this the moment we entered the room.
All three actors were already in character as we found our seats dancing and bobbing their heads to the old school garage tracks that filled the room; commenting on the appearance of audience members and asking them questions. I even got complimented on my hair and my younger beautiful sister (my grandmother); shaking our hands with appreciation then turning back dancing to the music.
Guiding the audience through three amazing monologues that completely draw you in, Little Baby Jesus is a coming of age story detailing the very moments that lead up the transition from naive teenager to adulthood. The play follows Kehinde (Anyebe Godwin), Joanne (Rachel Nwokoro) and Rugrat (Khai Shaw) three inner-city kids, misunderstood, feeling alone and just trying to get through school, whose lives become unexpectedly intertwined hinged together by moments beyond their control.
Although the play is about inner-city teenagers it doesn’t follow the obvious formula of knife and gangland crime we too often see, Arinzé’s writing sheds light on other issues such as, mental health, grooming, domestic violence, teen pregnancy and peer pressure (and yes there is a moment where a knife is mentioned ‘I saw the glimmer of a blade’ but this was not further developed which was rather satisfying).
The stage though small was used well as the actors jumped, rolled and pushed their way through their storytelling. The lighting formed a halo over the actors and gave extra meaning to some of the more deeper, thought-provoking moments adding to, and making the biblical references standout. Both the sound effects and music used drew the audience in and made for great comedy (I’m sure everybody will remember the shower scene with a smile).
Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu does a great job in directing giving the actors the leeway to improvise and feed off not only each other but the audience. The interaction is just enough to give an extra kick to the comedy some audience members even blushing as the actors danced, sat on laps and even managed to point people out who fit the description of their dialogue.
The actors were fantastic taking on each character with stealth and great delivery. Shaw for me had the standout performance balancing his main character Rugrat (the class clown who really only had learning difficulties) with his two best friends Baker and Jerome managing to switch between each character effortlessly; Nwokoro’s loud, feisty, no-nonsense Joanne is hilarious and was able to embrace her softer side but never for too long ‘I never cry’; Kehinde (Godwin) is the balance, though he has his faults and is riddled with guilt, he is very aware of them and although lacking in action he is a boy ready for the transition into adulthood.
Little Baby Jesus is a true testament to the misgivings of youth, it gives a dose of nostalgia whilst taking away food for thought, a little something for the audience to take away and further dissect. I am glad Arinzé Kene entrusted Fynn-Aiduenu with this production because he did an amazing job.
Little Baby Jesus runs at The Orange Tree Theatre until 16th November. Find out more and book tickets here.