Proud by Bren Gosling. The King’s Head Theatre, Upper Street, Islington, London to 12 March 2022. 3***. William Russell.

Director Marlie Haco has given Proud an impressive treatment and the story Bren Gosling has to tell is undeniably interesting. Roland, a Walthamstow Jamaican divorced father of a teenage son, Gary, who hates living with his mother and is having problems at school, meets a young man sweeping up the basketball court where he plays. The man is terrified when a helicopter flies over and soils himself. Roland takes him home to clean up. When the youth returns with the washed clothing the inevitable happens and the rest of the play is about how Roland (Taofique Folarin) gets to grips with these two conflicting problems in his life – the trouble is that as written he is completely insufferable. If a situation can be messed up Roland does it wearing bother boots and appears, while having the physique of Greek god, lavishly displayed, to be – well, not very bright. One should care for him and all the play engenders is ever increasing irritation. Things are not helped b y casting Kaine Hatukai as the 15 year old Gary. He is not only taller than, but looks older than Roland. He gives a very good performance, as indeed does Folarin r. Andrei Maniata as as Amir,the 21 year old refugee suffering from post traumatic stress, also gives a very good performance but really looks about the same age as Roland. In other words visually it is impossible to believe in any of them.
Gosling’s book on which it is based won considerable praise and possibly on the page it all works out much better. But something looks like having gone wrong in the translation to reality. Haco has made the basket ball the centre of the play – it gets thrown and bounced around endlessly, and the lovers perform erotic dance routines to show they are making love. It is all well done, but somewhere along the way the story has turned into something it presumably was never intended to be. One cannot blame the actors, nor the director who has brought it to the stage with real style, but what should have been a touching account of a conflicted gay man coming to terms with life, finding love and resolving his problems with his son just does not ring true.
Roland: Taofique Folarin.
Amir: Andrei Manata.
Gary: Kaine Hatukai.

Director: Marlie Haco.
Set & Costume Designer : Justin Nardella.
Composer & Sound Designer: Akos Lutsyik
Lighting Designer: Ben Jacobs.
Production photographs: Toby Mather.

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