The Dream, a radio-play by Nnenna Samson Abosi, is a reminder of how important context is to how a production is received. Where, when and how one receives content seems to be just as important as what’s said. Indeed, The Dream, a production focused on the experience of young Caribbean Brits during the 70s, seems quite poignant in the wake of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. After a season of conversations about correcting the history books, a radio play comes along to do just that.
The story follows Delvin, a Black British teenager as he discovers the wrath of police brutality, at the same time as the rise of the Black Power Movement in London in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whilst the story is fictional, it’s steeped in true Black British history. In fact, figures like Frank Crichlow, Martin Luther King and Enoch Powell become prominent parts of the story which wonderfully focuses the temporal location of the piece. Listening I learn a lot about the West Indian experience in West London and that Dr Pepper has been on the market for a lot longer than I thought.
It’s hard not to view The Dream through the recent representation of the same Caribbean community in 1970s London in Steve McQueen’s Mangrove. Fortunately, TV and Radio are such sparsely different mediums that comparison of quality are immensely difficult. It’s a mindset I implore you escape before giving The Dream a listen because it’s worth approaching with a blank slate.
The performances in this eighty minute radio drama are engaging and emotive, if a little too much at times. The cast which includes the gifted Connie Bell, Patrick Abbot and Adil Hassan occasionally overcompensate for the restrictions of radio and push their voices to the point of over-emoting. Whilst I am often immersed in the sound design, music and the performances, the occasional misplaced inflection or over enunciated phrase make me astutely aware that this is a performance, that I am in my room, and that there are many minutes left on the clock.
What really will keep someone engaged is the history and the culture. Until recently, a lot had gone unsaid about the culture and the histories of people from the West Indies. This sprawling story with countless characters, human moments and an exciting exceptionally young cast should be the start of anyone’s “Introduction to Black British History” class. You will most certainly benefit from starting here before moving on to other audio-visual tales, so do catch it at the Brighton Fringe whilst you can.
The Dream is playing at the Brighton Fringe until the 27th of June. For more information and tickets, see Brighton Fringe’s website.