After the huge success with his smash-hit play Misty in London, Arinzé Kene is hot on the playwriting scene and his play Little Baby Jesus is a moving and insightful piece of theatre about three inner-city teenagers.
Little Baby Jesus is part of the Birmingham Rep’s Foundry Festival that celebrates work and work-in-progress pieces by emerging playwrights, directors and theatre-makers. Adapted and directed by Jay Crutchley, it’s a thought-provoking piece of theatre about young kids navigating their way from childhood to adulthood.
We meet Kehinde (Claudius Peters), a young boy who is wise beyond his years, Joanne (Adaya Henry) a straight-talking girl coping with her mum’s mental illness and Rugrat (Nathan Queely-Dennis) the class clown who just wants to be part of the in-crowd. Through a series of intertwining monologues, their lives, thoughts and feelings unravel in front of us.
Arinzé Kene’s poetic language is striking as the actors communicate with such authenticity. You really feel their stories as his words depict the exhilaration of growing up. Ultimately it’s about the trials and tribulations of adolescence but it focuses on three black kids trying to find their place in society. Whether that’s Kehinde talking about his obsession with mixed race girls or Rugrat changing the way he acts to fit in. The pace and rhythm of the language mirrors the musical transitions of grime and rap music to creates a raw atmosphere that the audience soak up and feel part of. Sat in the audience I heard hums of agreement as the universal themes resonated with everyone.
The cast of three work as a superb ensemble as they deliver a punchy performance with the convincing teenage passion and fire. Crutchley’s energetic direction makes a simple concept engaging as you connect each of the characters and their stories. Kene’s writing depicts the lives of these three youngsters with humour and warmth. His magnetic language is clever and beautiful making him one of the most remarkable storytellers of our generation.
Find out more about Birmingham Rep’s Foundry Festival here.