By Becky May, Volunteer Woman Reporter for Bristol Women’s Voice
Written by Nkenna Akunna, and starring Tiajna Amayo in a solo performance, Cheeky Little Brown is a story of two young Black women in London and a tale of love, loss, rejection and junk food, punctuated by original music and sprinkled with (sometimes surreal) humour.
It addresses the pain of a break-up and takes place over the course of one eventful night when Lady tries to reconnect with her former best ‘sister’ friend Gemma at the latter’s birthday party.
Amayo, who truly shines like one of Gemma’s glittery decorations throughout, sings beautifully and Lady bursts into song at surprising moments in the show.Through the frequently witty lyrics, we learn more about Lady’s inner feelings.
An unwanted guest at the party
Lady arrives at Gemma’s party, the set sparkly with party balloons, a glitter backdrop, and the entrance music, Try Again by Aaliyah, injects a little poignancy into the proceedings.
We, the audience, are addressed as fellow partygoers as Lady seeks to make conversation with us and through this we immediately feel her pain at being an outsider, an unwanted guest at Gemma’s party, in Gemma’s new home surrounded by Gemma’s new friends.
This is a solo performance and indeed Lady, is very much alone in the crowd as she helps herself to party snacks and drinks a little too much while attempting to navigate her way around the ‘dance area’ and the ‘smoking area’ pointed out to her by Gemma’s annoying new friend Jess, seemingly uncomprehending of Gemma’s failure to greet her.
Friends from school
We learn that Gemma and Lady, both Black girls in London first met in the playground fighting over a toy but almost immediately became inseparable, a friendship which was to last throughout school and sixth form.
Having gone their separate ways at university the two were reunited back in London before a break-up six months prior to the party. The reasons for the split are seemingly obvious to begin with; Gemma has moved on and rejected her old friend in favour of the new fashionable women who populate the party, ‘carrot thin’ and ‘of the Caucasus’ as Lady disdainfully observes.
As the evening wears on, through Gemma’s voice we begin to understand that it is more complicated than that; the friendship has turned into something more and there are two sides to the story. Sick from drinking too much wine, Lady leaves and on her journey back she treats herself to a doner kebab. The love song sung to to ‘Doner’ the kebab, was hilarious though there are hints at levels of comfort eating of junk food which are possibly problematic.
Spooked in the park by a strange noise which turns out to be a pigeon seeking to share her meal, she runs home and, back in her own surroundings, now looking less glamorous in a dressing gown, wig removed that we really start to understand the inner life of Lady and the complexity of her former relationship.
This play is one of contrasts and surprises and is really made by Amayo’s flawless performance. It is refreshing to see a play about women with all their complexities and portrayed neither as victims nor heroines and where their relationships to men play no part in the story.
Cheeky Little Brown is on until Saturday 14 October at Bristol Old Vic: https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/cheeky-little-brown