Review: Sleepova at Bush Theatre

Thursday March 2nd 2023 at Bush Theatre, London.


Reviewer: Dela Ruth Hini

Bush Theatre’s latest production, Sleepova, is a beautiful homage to Black British sisterhood. Staged in the intimate Holloway Theatre, audience members are invited to share in a story of laughter, grief, resilience, and chosen family.

Sleepova’s ensemble cast consists of Bukky Bakray, Amber Grappy, Aliyah Odoffin, and Shayde Sinclair, with voiceover work provided by Jude Akuwudike. Each actor, a phenome in their own right, brings a simultaneous lightness and vulnerability to their characters which makes it easy to become immersed in the realities of the story.

Director Jade Lewis’ work is so thoughtful with the text that at no point do audience members feel like they are watching actors at work; rather they feel that they are witnessing a quartet at play. Of course, the world of Sleepova exists because of the writing of Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini, whose text offers an accurate and textured voice to young Black and mixed-race experiences of identity and friendship.

Furthermore, the work of movement director Gabrielle Nino, fight/intimacy director Enric Ortuño, and voice/dialect coach Gurkiran Kaur all contribute to the believability of the actor’s work. Sound design by XANA, composition by Romarna Campbell, and music by Mutale Chasi help to effortlessly immerse audiences in the soundscape of Sleepova.

The staging disrupts conventional theatre settings by making each performance a relaxed environment. This allows for audience members to respond to the work in whichever ways feel natural, including stepping out as needed and taking time in the chill-out space available in Bush’s Script Library. What this allowed for were audience responses that authentically melded with what was happening on stage, further encompassing both actor and audience in the Sleepova world.

Light yet complex, filled with harsh truths and pure joy, Sleepova is a vital piece of new writing in the canon of British theatre.

Sleepova is at Bush Theatre until April 8th 2023 – you can find more information and tickets here.

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