This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour was invited to Coming to England by The Rep.
Baroness Floella Benjamin talked about Coming to England on Brum Radio’s Interval Theatre. Listen below:
By Becky Kroon twitter.com/BeckyKroon
Review: Coming to England at The Rep
Director and choreographer: Omar Okai, adapted by David Wood
Coming to England brings to life children’s TV presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin’s story of emigrating to England from Trinidad as a child. This is an upbeat family musical while being an engaging source of education for a younger audience on the prejudices faced by the Windrush Generation.
Despite the autobiographical narrative of the show, Coming to England was a chorus-driven performance. Through multi-rolling and synchronized choreography, the chorus of nine drove the narrative of Baroness Benjamin’s childhood. The collection of short, episodic scenes created the atmosphere of Benjamin’s school and family life alongside the vibrant culture of Trinidad, with musical numbers on the Trinidadian Carnival and the idyllic scenery of the Caribbean. The incorporation of different musical formations, such as acapella, interactive song and live music such as Kojo Kamara’s (playing Dardie) saxophone playing brings together a multi-layered performance designed to charm in the spirit of Benjamin’s entertainment career.
Benjamin’s subjection to racism remains clear throughout the show, in which Paula Kay (playing Floella Benjamin) broke the fourth wall to retrospectively comment on the challenges presented in her childhood. A moment that stood out was her comment on her education in Trinidad, in which she realised that she was being taught England’s manufactured history lessons without learning the true story of her background.
Likewise, the change in Kay’s accent from Trinidadian to the Queen’s English every time she addressed the audience further highlighted the shift in her character due to prejudice, with a moment in the script marking how Benjamin will not succeed if her accent does not change to the Queen’s English. These moments in Coming to England illustrated a clear commentary of the intolerances presented to Benjamin and her family in 1960s London, educational and engaging for a younger audience, a format which has not been done in this way before.
A standout moment of the performance goes to Kay’s stripped-down rendition of Nat King Cole’s Smile. Contrasting with the upbeat numbers prior, this simple but effective song summarised the extreme obstacles Benjamin had to face when growing up in England, and how when she smiled, she won.
Overall, Coming to England is the perfect show to not only delight the family but to accessibly engage a young audience in the important history of the Windrush Generation.
Coming to England is at The Rep until Saturday 16th April 2022 as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. Book tickets here: birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/coming-to-england