Tunde is popping 30 and there’s a truthful quantity of discuss cake. Because the king of birthdays, he all the time likes to go large however is having a “quiet one” this yr. He’s quiet in different, extra emotionally coiled methods, too. The playful stuff about blue icing and Victoria sponges is a part of the confection of Ifeyinwa Frederick’s humorous, humane monologue that eases us right into a slowly searing drama about masculinity and psychological well being.
Frederick’s debut, The Hoes, was about three younger girls experiencing a quarter-life disaster, of kinds. Now she turns to masculinity – and one younger, lonely Black British man – in a much more severe state of disaster. Tunde, who’s performed with large, lovable vitality by Joseph Black, tells fitness center jokes and brims with sexual braggadocio at the beginning (he retains a tally of the ladies he has slept with and reads it out, one smirking title at a time). However he additionally lets his telephone ring off, unable to speak, and appears, ominously, to be packing up his life.
Below the course of Philip Morris, he combines internal outpourings with one-way conversations together with his buddy Jag, his British Nigerian household and a job recruiter who solely ever appears to ship unhealthy information, placing on a breezy entrance for all of them. When his despair leaks out, his internal voice berates him for it: “This crying,” he remembers his father telling him, “it’s not one thing we Adeyemi males do.” And but he cries, uncontrollably, each by himself and through intercourse. The one time he reveals any trace of the rising chasm inside is when he speaks to a therapist. Then we learn the way his girlfriend of greater than 5 years had an abortion and left him, although he’s additionally hiding this from his household.
It doesn’t matter an excessive amount of that the set seems to be uninspired (cardboard packing containers and a black leather-based chair), or that the music and lighting appear abrupt. There’s some broad-brush characterisation, too, akin to the strict, lecturing father and some moments really feel static. Black’s efficiency lifts all of it, bringing laughter and in addition sudden bursts of emotion. “I’m drowning,” he says to his father, who refuses to listen to his son’s vulnerabilities. He information a soul-baring message for his ex-girlfriend – a sort of SOS – however sends her a terse, inscrutable one as a substitute. There’s a tender second when he opens a field containing child booties and toys to look longingly at his misplaced dream of fatherhood. And frustration when he musters the braveness to ring a melancholy helpline however is placed on maintain till he offers up. Partitions, each internal and outer, appear to be raised whichever approach he turns.
Given the excessive suicide charges amongst males, Frederick’s drama feels well timed and alarming, with only a sliver of hope on the finish.