Gone Too Far! at Theatre Royal Stratford East
For the first time since becoming a GCSE set text in 2021, the debut 2007 play Gone Too Far! by Bola Agbaje returns to the stage. Performed at Theatre Royal Stratford East in a co-production with the National Youth Theatre, and set in Peckham, south London, Gone Too Far! is a comedy and tragedy about two young brothers, one born in London and the other recently arrived from Nigeria, who go to buy their overbearing mother (Jessica Enemokwu) some milk on the estate. Along the way, they are refused service, nearly arrested and caught up in a war of egos which nearly ends in tragedy. Updated for the Karen and smartphone era, Gone Too Far! offers a sometimes uncomfortable window into a world of racism, internalised shame and the struggle for identity, status and respect.
Staged in a 480-seat red Victorian theatre, viewers are transported to Peckham with a simple but well-thought-out set design. Stagehands dressed as construction workers add a clever touch, making set changes part of the show and hinting at the spread of gentrification. Dave (Daniel Crawley), Liz (Chloe Cooper) and, in a different way, Miss C (Thomas Azocar-Nevin) also highlight the dark side of gentrification, the first two in an abrasive, patronising and uncomfortable way as they mask their racism with “reasonability”. Azocar-Nevin gives a wonderful drag performance and is a delight to watch, but even in their glamour and supportive acts they, like the drunken party-goers who run through the streets, stumbling into police tape, add a voyeuristic feeling to the show. Music and slow-motion movement are used effectively to transition between scenes, creating a sense of place as well as surreal foreboding.
Keziah Campbell-Golding brings depth to Armani, the big-mouthed overcompensating girlfriend of Blazer (Richard Adetunji) whose need to “speak her mind” causes much trouble for everyone else. Campbell-Golding shows the character’s underlying insecurity in a subtle but poignant way, which highlights that a lot of the character’s big energy and bigger mouth is a coping mechanism, thus making her more understandable even as she’s being annoying and racist. Jerome Scott (Yemi) also gives an excellent performance and creates a three-dimensional, complicated and likeable character struggling with his identity and internalised shame. Dalumuzi Moyo (Ikudayisi) delivers a vibrant, humorous performance with underlying wisdom, showing that, despite what the other characters think, Ikyudayisi sees the world more clearly than any of them. Enemokwu is fantastic as the hyperbolic mother.
The play shows us a Britain that we may have lived all our lives in and yet been unaware of. The audience is engaged with the show all the way through, inhaling sharply at the various racist aggressions, laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the characters, chuckling in understanding at some of the references and jumping to their feet to give a standing ovation at the end. Gone Too Far! explores themes that are not within this reviewer’s lived experience and so it’s hard to do the play the justice it deserves, but one leaves feeling grateful to have heard these stories and to have added another piece to their world model.
Image: Isha Shah
Gone Too Far! is at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 24th March until 1st April 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.