Daniel Nelson

Nine Night is hyphenated, double-barrelled fun because it’s about a Jamaican-British family. So that’s two cultures to treasure and mock.

Actor-writer Natasha Gordon – yes, unbelievably, the first black British female writer to have a play on in the West End – has said that Lorraine, the centre of the storm that rages around her, is her voice but that it’s not her story.

Gerdon’s own experience of a nine-day Jamaican wake came only when her grandmother died, and she had no idea what to expect: “I was just so exhausted,” she said in an interview with whatsonstage

. “I was so overrun, with my siblings, making sure there was food to feed everyone and drinks, I didn't have time to stop and reflect about what we were doing."

Her play captures the exhausting demands of a ceaseless flow of visitors, but tosses in the added spice of family secrets, jealousies, resentments, ambitions, affections.

The result is a hugely entertaining mix of personalities, drama, emotions, cultural clashes – and laughter.

It’s not a political or preachy play, or an “issue play” though it touches on many and though the Windrush scandal and daily newspaper reports of racism (from Chelsea football fans on the day I saw it) give an extra jolt to the few lines that allow non-family events to intrude – such as Lorraine’s remark to Trudy, the oldest sister, left behind in Jamaica: "You were right not to come to England. Gloria [their mother] wanted you but England didn't."

But let’s not overtalk it. Nine Night is a vibrant, hugely entertaining, big-hearted, affectionate slice of human life, full of great characters, sharply written and brought to life by an excellent cast who almost hold their own against the show-stealing Cecilia Noble as the critical, interfering Aunt Maggy.

·     Nine Night is at the Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, SW1, until 23 February. Info: 0333 700 8800/ https://www.londontheatredirect.com/play/3237/nine-night-tickets.aspx

 

 

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