Known for its commitment to artistic excellence and social change, the award-winning Theatre Peckham is a powerhouse for creative brilliance. And the press night for Sunny Side Up did not fall short of this. Written by David Alade and directed by Suzann McLean, they don’t want the audience to watch the play. They want to invite you to an experience.
Dedicated to David’s late father, Sunny Alade, Sunny Side upholds a flame to family dynamics and lessons learned in the streets and at home. Nothing less than a beautiful ode to growth that stems from tragedy, David is no stranger to harsh realities. But Sunny Side Up is far from a Shakespearean tragedy. Instead, the audience is presented with a precociously balanced testament to the social landscape of the Peckham Estates. A microcosm of South London that raises the individual in a way that will either make or break you.
David begins the play by introducing his alter ego/hometown name: Lil D. Depending on where he is at any given point, the name holds weight in differing ways. At home, Lil D is the cute daddy’s boy who listens to slow ballads while fawning over his caramel-skinned love interest. Lil D at home is the curious young boy fascinated with the estate’s darker side. This side holds no space for light. On the street, Lil D is the crème de la crème of hypermasculinity and ego. Quickly sniffing out the “opps,” he arrives prepared and ready to battle. Lil D is two sides of the same coin; he is the box that society pigeonholes black ‘boys’ in as soon as they take their first breath.
The talented Natalie Pryce cleverly designs the set to highlight the mental, social, and physical prison Lil D finds himself in. He is stuck from school to the estates to Church to an actual prison cell. His steadfast love for his dad and his relationship with his family is strong and rooted in tradition; it keeps Lil D grounded, but his mental prison is chipping away at his faith. Littered across the stage are artifacts from Lil D’s adolescence; it adds an element of life – like a steady heartbeat that vibrates throughout the play. The artifacts make it real, placing the audience in the action scene.
In keeping with the one-person show, David relies on playing multiple characters that dip in and out of his life. The persona changes are incredible and a real example of his talent as an actor and a performer. Sunny Side Up flows with pace and rhythm. David is an excellent lyricist. Every line delivered to the audience felt like poetic gold. Watching the play felt like David treated the audience with a highly synchronized theatrical delight.
A sensational, emotional experience that held the audience’s attention while remaining poignant and full of passion. The death of a family member is one of the most challenging experiences; David bravely navigates his world before his father’s illness, during his father’s condition, and arrives with the audience to his current state. What comes next is a mystery, but one thing is for sure, Lil D is the past, and David Alade is the future.
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