Walking through Westfield shopping centre, on the way to Theatre Royal Stratford East, there are an abundance of signs forbidding the wearing of ski-masks, and other such face coverings. There’s a near identical situation played out in one of the early scenes of Bola Agbaje’s Olivier Award winning Gone Too Far! Which is revived at Stratford East by the National Youth Theatre and their fantastic Rep Company.
Following on from the success of Much Ado About Nothing which recently played in the West End, the company now present a less playful, but just as impactful, production of a play that is now a GCSE text. Two brothers, one raised in London, the other in Nigeria, and while they may share a bedroom, they do not share a cultural identity.
Yemi is streetwise and forthright, to the point it feels like he’s looking for a fight, refusing to remove his mask for the Ukrainian (changed from Bangladeshi in the original script) shopkeeper who won’t allow entry to Planet Organic whilst he’s still wearing it.
Ikudayisi on the other hand, is more tolerant and polite, occasionally bursting into song and always speaking with fondness for Nigeria. “If it was so good, why did you come here?” challenges Yemi, it’s the first of many examples of racism, or perhaps cultural misunderstandings, that flow with vital urgency throughout this play.
It’s most evident in the character of Armani, wonderfully portrayed by Keziah Campbell-Golding, a mixed-race girl who likes to shoot her mouth off, with little to back up her cruel and spite-filled words. She claims to be proudly Jamaican, though Razer (Tobi King Bakare) points out she’s never travelled further than the edge of her own council estate.
Gone Too Far! Isn’t necessarily about where you’re from, but where you identify with, and how people of all races are too quick to jump to assumptions. Indeed, the brothers, who are out to buy a pint of milk, encounter many forms of this as they wander around that estate. Each scene delivers the message in a different way, and while little else happens in terms of plot, the characters slowly reveal their true natures.
Monique Touko’s vibrant direction aids that character development on Madeleine Boyd’s scaffolding set. Each scene is punctuated with hip hop music and contemporary dance that, like an inner London West Side Story, helps set the next scene.
Jerome Scott as Yemi and Dalumuzi Moyo as Ikudayisi find the perfect chemistry. There is a closeness, clearly facilitated by the two months they have spent living together, but there’s also a distance in both the way they feel about each other, and the world in general. Dalumuzi Moyo gives an incredible performance; superbly funny at times, and more intense when it really counts.
And Gone Too Far!, certainly in the first act, is a very funny piece of drama that shines a light on modern day city life. It’s also shocking at times, forcing its audience to really think about what they are watching. With Gone Too Far!, the National Youth Theatre and their Rep company present a powerful and compelling piece of theatre.