It’s no secret that the theatre industry has problems with diversity beyond the types of actors we see on stage. Playwrights, directors and producers are primarily white males, continuing the cycle of white heterosexual male narratives filling our stages. Unshaded Arts, founded by Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts alumni Hassan Govia, Cristal Cole and Chiedza Rwodzi, aims to change this by producing new plays that ‘shine a light on universal stories driven by marginalised voices’. Their first production at Drayton Arms Theatre is Boujie (a slang term derived from the word bourgeois, often used disdainfully when referring to someone who has, or aspires to have, an upper-middle class lifestyle). Written by Govia and directed by Zoe Morris, Boujie thrusts us into a post-Brexit Britain and examines the impact of professional and financial success on relationships.
The action starts the moment the audience step into the auditorium, with successful entertainment writer Devin (portrayed by writer Govia) setting up his new apartment for the arrival of his friends. First to arrive is Dahlia (Natali Servat), an overworked NHS nurse who we quickly learn has a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with Devin. They are joined by Courtney and Joslyn (Peter Silva and Maria Yarjah), and the housewarming party starts. Like most parties, there are gatecrashers; Devin’s sister Giselle (Cole) and a new neighbour (Freddy Gaffney), whose excitement for Devin stems solely from his desire to see more colour in the building, and all the things he thinks are associated with that. As the evening progresses and more alcohol is poured, resentment seeps in and the party descends into chaos as Devin’s friends reveal they aren’t happy with just how ‘boujie’ Devin has become.
The strongest performers by far are Govia (perhaps owing to his comfort with the script), Yarjah, and Cole, who show incredibly strong characterisation. The rapport between Cole and Govia is good, making their scenes the most enjoyable to watch. Despite this, the play has weaker elements, some of which will naturally be smoothed out during the remainder of the the three week run. During the first half, for example, there are a few moments where the dialogue feels clunky and unnecessary and doesn’t really serve the story. Certain actors occasionally venture into the territory of overacting, bringing down the overall performance considerably.
The themes it explores are both unique and relevant, particularly in our current social media-influenced society, where social dynamics and financial success can change in a relatively short space of time. By editing the script and removing some extraneous elements, Boujie would be well on its way to becoming a strong first production, a modern day Abigail’s Party.
Boujie is playing Drayton Arms Theatre until December 8. For more information and tickets, click here.