A story of family, love and grief – David Alade’s ‘Sunny Side Up’ brought me to tears

A story of family, love and grief – David Alade’s ‘Sunny Side Up’ brought me to tears

Theatre Peckham are pressing replay on the critically acclaimed production of Sunny Side Up written and performed by David Alade (The Fisherman: National Tour, The Fields: Sky, Casualty: BBC). Following on from its sold-out run at Peckham Fringe in 2022, this lyrical piece, blending drama and poetry, transfers to the main stage for a three-week run.  

Based on a true story, Sunny Side Up is an unforgiving coming-of-age story set in the mind of Peckham-born David, looking at his younger self – Little D. The journey sees a young Black boy go from childhood innocence through a harsh transformation into manhood, all leading up to the loss of his father, Sunny. 

Told via spoken word and featuring a host of characters this epic, playful, and heartfelt play forces us to question how society shapes the vulnerabilities and masculinity of young Black boys.  

My decision to watch the piece came after several recommendations from friends and family who had watched the play in its previous run, and all their comments were the same ‘The Sunny Side Up is both heartwrenching and incredible’. I was told to prepare for tears and whilst I whispered to myself proudly ‘I love to cry and feel my emotions’, nothing could have prepared me for the show I was about to witness.

I sat anxiously in the theatre waiting for the show to start as the stage was dimly lit revealing metal gates that resemble playground fences. To my pleasant surprise, the show started with a sweet narration of David’s infant years, born to a loving yet proud Nigerian migrant family, with a sweethearted softie as a dad. Usually, Nigerian Dads are characterised and negatively stereotyped by stern and unforgiving descriptions, however, not Sunny. Sunny is sweet and kind and encourages David to cry, values that David slowly learns to resent and reject as his survival is threatened growing up around Peckham estates.

Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

As Sunny’s soft-hearted boy is slowly soldiered in a stern young man, we see the passage of time and unforgiving nature of life take is toll on Sunny’s health. Navigating terminal illness and caring responsibilities within the family setting is a truly lonely, all-consuming, and heart-wrenching process that you hate to endure, yet paradoxically, desperately try to prolong.

David’s ability to narrate the silent, yet sorry, conflicting emotions and thoughts that come with losing a loved one, is truly heartwrenching. I genuinely sobbed throughout the performance as the love and tenderness with which David regaled his father, become my own love and admiration. Without ever having spoken to David, by way of this play, I love Sunny.

This play felt like a continuation of legacy and an ode to the battles and stories many of us face, yet may never have the platform or capacity to share. David Alade says, “I feel fulfilled to be able to tell this story, a story of family, love, and grief.” An exceptional creative, both his writing and his performance are captivating, which makes the play is so compelling for audiences. It’s a 70-minute wake-up call, a call for change in the way society shapes young Black boys for the battle of life.”  

The play ends this weekend on the 4th of March, tickets can be booked here


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