Leave to Remain at the Lyric Hammersmith
On first inspection audiences might mistake Leave to Remain for a musical centred around Brexit, but thankfully for all those involved, it has very little to do with it and hopefully a Brexit-based musical never comes to fruition. The show centres around Obi, who is British born and of Nigerian descent, who falls in love with Alex, a soon-to-be visa-less white American ex-addict. The couple are happily cohabiting in Shoreditch when a spanner is thrown in the works as Alex’s company plans to relocate to Abu Dhabi, leaving him and Obi with the difficult choice of either moving to a nation with stringent laws on homosexuality or getting married. The initial decision for the couple to wed seems like a simple solution at first but as time passes and the wedding day approaches, family tensions emerge and plunge the two men into turmoil.
Leave to Remain starts off slightly bizarrely, reminiscent of a Summer Heights High sketch, but quickly recovers as a nuanced approach to a multi-cultural gay marriage occurring under tenuous circumstances. The musical delves deeply into the various relationships between the characters and explores the different dynamics involved in the two men getting married, from the couple themselves to the family and society around them. On one side there is Obi battling with his strict Nigerian family for acceptance and support, then on the other there is Alex, who is struggling with pressures from his family as well as Obi’s dedication to their imminent nuptials. Whilst on the surface Leave to Remain appears to be about gay marriage, it goes beyond this by looking at each character facing their own demons, which are brought to light by the coming together of these two contrasting families and individuals.
The culmination of Matt Jones’s writing, Robby Graham’s slow-motion choreography and Kele Okereke’s electronic score perfectly illustrates the complex elements in this story. As far as musicals go this is vastly different to anything theatregoers will have experienced before and they will be fighting the urge to get up and jive with the characters on stage to the skittering beats and the whirling synths of Okereke’s West African high-life and electronic dance music fusion. The script itself stands above the crowd for its intricate plot line and well-developed characters, but a special mention needs to be made for Okereke’s score, which is undeniably some of his best work since Bloc Party’s sophomore album A Weekend in the City.
Photos: Helen Maybanks
Leave to Remain is at the Lyric Hammersmith from 18th January until 16th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.