East End Boys, West End Girls is the latest work by playwright Ade Solanke. It is an honest and humorous exploration of teenage relationships and angst in the wider context of education. Set in modern London, the play is developed around two boys from the east end of London meeting two girls from the west side of London after they have competed for a prestigious scholarship.
This play is so very cleverly written and directed by Ade Solankee, that its multiple layers invite conversation across a number of issues. These incude young people exploring the world outside of their immediate post codes or indeed the burden placed on young people to academically succeed. That is in addition to questions of race and gender.
Ismail Kamara, who plays Olly is utterly convincing as a scared young man who does not want his best friend to attend an all white school because it would change their relationship. Yet Ade has not made his character one-dimensional. Olly asks some big questions which, Ade allowed discussion for after the show. His best friend, who he has protected throughout school life, is Tobi, played by Alhahji Fofana.
Tobi’s take on life, is for me what the essence of youth should be, to explore. He embodies Dr. Kwame Nkrumah words quoted in the play, “We face neither east nor west; we face forward.” With his father strongly centred in his life, Tobi wants more, to explore and mostly to succeed. Olly does not understand this element of Tobi’s character. Their relationship brings a new and honest interpretation of young people banding together as opposed to the worn idea of gang culture.
Montana Mascoll, plays Katie, a black middle class girl of Nigerian parentage. How absent has that image been from our screens and theatres? Montana is determined on and off set. Self assured and intelligent Katie’s horizon knows no boundaries. It raises the question of whether her confidence is borne of money or intelligence.
Jennie Eggleton is remarkably refreshing as Bali. The innocence of her character reminds us all of our early days in school before we became aware that race mattered. Bali is wrapped up in agony because of the pressure not to fail her mother. Guilt ridden by the sacrifices being made, she is following a career path chosen by her mother. Olly, who does not want to go to an all white school or explore that which is different, awakes her soul to other possibilities.
Warm, witty and thought provoking this is a must see family play. The play speaks to youth expectations and the role of parents in the transition to adulthood. (If you didn’t speak to your children on a deep level before, you will after this). The after show discussion if available, should not be missed. I look forward to more work from Ade who has made the characters of young black people multi faceted. Ade’s play goes a long way to understanding the fears of modern teenage. It is a triumph of British black theatre.
August 14 &15 Tickets: 020 8365 5450; Bernie Grant Arts.
Edited; 16 September 2015 –
This play has been nominated for an Alfred Fagon Audience Award. You can vote for this or other the other plays that are listed here.