Sweet Like Chocolate Boy
The spirit of revolution on London's estates, the beauty of Black British culture from the 90s onwards – and a killer playlist – at Bristol's Tobacco Factory Theatres
Well, one thing this play will do, if you’re anything like me, is have you singing Shanks and Bigfoot’s “Sweet Like Chocolate” to yourself hours after it has ended. The audience walk in to the sound of old-school garage tracks, immediately evoking the early-mid 1990s. We meet “Bounty” – or so everyone in his area calls him – a quiet, shy, young black man, not quite at home yet with any part of his identity. His best friend is James, a scrappy white kid with the kind of racist views passed down from his father, and unquestioningly played back to Bounty.
It’s an intriguing friendship, but before we have time to dive into it, we are brought forward in time, to a Black Lives Matter march, and introduced to Mars. Mars has recently come out of a mental health hospital, in which he met Fantasia, a politicised, radical protester keen to bring Moses into the fight against racist police forces. These stories, at first seeming so far apart, cleverly and subtly become interweaved. What follows is ruminations on what it means to be a black Londoner, how family trauma informs present behaviour, gender power struggles, and the tragic price of having a generous heart.
Amongst all of this is an otherworldly, spiritual plotline reminiscent of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In fact, I’m not sure if this conceit is entirely necessary: the two central characters of Bounty and Mars bring so much already, I wonder what a play with even more of them might look like. Still, it’s an inventive addition, and one that the audience willingly accept.
There are eleven characters in this show, played by three actors. Michael Levi Fatogun, Bernard Mensah and Jade Hackett all bring an enormous deal of energy and physicality, to transform into these characters effortlessly and engagingly. Hardly ever off-stage, they’re super impressive performances. For plays that ask big questions without easy solutions, writer Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu will be one to watch.
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy is on at the Tobacco Factory until Sat 6 July. Tickets from £12. Suitable 15+
Tobacco Factory Theatres, Raleigh Road, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1TF. Tel 0117 902 0344. tobaccofactorytheatres.com
Words Alex Sayers. Photos Robert Sloetry.