Review Round Up: Trouble in Butetown, Donmar Warehouse

Discover what critics have had to say about the world premiere of Diana Nneka Atuona’s play with our review round up….

(c)Manuel Harlan

Broadway World: *** “The trouble with Trouble is not in its inviting setup but what Atuona and director Tinuke Craig do with it. The early scenes drag until Nate introduces himself to Georgie and composer Clement Ishmael’s songs are a welcome tonic to plodding dialogue that could have been ripped from the average kitchen sink drama.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “But Trouble in Butetown never loses its capacity to engage. It looks at the past with new eyes, trying to pull out the strings of Britain’s tangled history, and it has the grace to spend time developing and listening to characters who aren’t often heard. It’s not just a set of notions, spouted by people about whom we do not care. It’s a proper chunk of life, and a highly enjoyable evening.”

The Guardian: *** “The script is deft, never preaching, but some elements are one step removed from a final polish: the winning humour jars in the later, darker scenes when the stakes are raised; a love story feels tacked on and a surge of melodrama comes with clunky plot-turns toward the end.”

Evening Standard: *** “Despite the schematic nature of the plot, Atuona springs a couple of brilliant late surprises. Craig’s production is consistently entertaining. And beneath its covering of fuzzy warmth, it reminds us how mixed British society has always been, and how recently labels like “coloured” or the N-word were bandied around.”

Time Out: *** “There’s the frustrating sense, I think, that there’s a bit more potential to ‘Trouble in Butetown’ than we actually get, that there’s a fresher style of play in there somewhere. But if it lacks a bit of bite, it’s a pleasurable couple of hours of theatre, with characters we end up feeling deeply for.”

The Reviews Hub: *** “Director Tinuke Craig keeps the show moving with pace and there are some well-choreographed fight scenes but it’s all likeable, if traditional, story telling.”

The Arts Desk: *** “Written by Diana Nneka Atuona, this follow-up to Liberian Girl, her 2015 debut, won the 2019 George Devine Award for most promising playwright. Although it revisits familiar territory, and adopts a deliberately traditional theatre form, it includes an interesting slant on race, multiculturalism and the Special Relationship between the UK and the USA.”

The Telegraph: **** “Samuel Adewunmi and Rita Bernard-Shaw seem to fall in love before your eyes in this Cardiff-set Second World War drama.”

London Theatre1: *** “In terms of the writing itself, I’d say it has a definite nod to the dramas of kitchen sink realism, with 21st Century dialogue and of course set in Wales rather than up North. Our characters are facing social inequality and are fighting for rights against a system that won’t change. Sadly, I learned nothing new from this piece, although I was introduced to some great stage actors that I shall keep an eye out for in the future.”

West End Best Friend: *** “Trouble in Butetown has so much to offer. It makes brave choices and reminds us of a truly remarkable yet troublesome time in history. It tells the story of so many people, which is perhaps why, at times, it feels a little thin on the ground. Despite this, there are some wonderfully moving moments from a stellar cast.”

iNews: *** “Atuona’s ripe scenario offered richer pickings than she has managed to harvest.”

Culture Whisper: **** “Trouble in Butetown takes a few scenes to warm up, but when it does, this WWII play that’s really more about race tells an important story about colour and how prejudice has long been a threat to interracial harmony.”

London Theatre *** “Writer Diana Nneka Atuona has covered so much ground and history. The end message of the piece ties some of the loose ends together and the underlying question of heroism vs freedom closes the show.”

Theatre “Diana Atuona’s play has a distinctive warmth of close family and kindness towards others which is refreshing when so much drama is about conflict and division.  This means that you care about the characters and what happens to them. Trouble in Butetown has strong writing, sound performances and great direction from Tinuke Craig who directed Jitney at the Old Vic last year.”

Theatre Weekly: “Nneka Atuona generously weaves together a cast of sympathetic and distinct characters, each with their own dreams, anxieties, and sabotages, into a tender tapestry of hope. The play’s company understand their characters down to the marrow, giving authentic and honest performances all around. Parish’s Gwyneth is sorrowful and protective. Bernard-Shaw’s Connie is defensive and aspiring. Adewunmi’s Nate is wearied and wise, while Ekenna’s Georgina is marvellously jaunty and impudent.”

Trouble in Butetown continues to play at the Donmar Warehouse until the 25th March.

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