The Fellowship by Roy Williams. Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, London NW5 to 23 July 2022. 4****. William Russell.

Sprawling and challenging Roy Williams play is about the relationship between two sisters, the children of Windrush parents, and how their lives have differed over the years as they helped shape today’s Britain. They are not immigrants, but Black Britons. Both were active in black rights causes as young women. Dawn (Cherelle Skeete), is married to a musician, has a son she dotes on who has acquired a white girlfriend. Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn) is a barrister married to a politician who driving drunk had an accident and persuaded her to say she was behind the wheel to save his career. She, however, is putting her career at risk.
The sister’s relationship, always difficult, is unravelling and Sylvia, their mother is upstairs in Dawn’s home dying. Marcia comes to seek refuge from her problems, and the sisters squabble, drink, dance, and fight. Both are stunningly volatile. Dawn’s son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard) is almost incapable of standing up to his mother, while her saxophonist husband Tony (Trevor Lamb) is a male chauvinist who dodges responsibility for anything and back in the past had a fleeting relationship with Marcia.
She is being investigated by the police as evidence has been uncovered that she was driving, and is seeking refuge with her siste. The two women struggle to find the ties that bound them during their activist youth. Williams has come up with a stimulating evening and the result is frequently very funny. Skeete and Llewellynare square up splendidly. Although director Paulette Randall has done a good job the end proves is a bit of a mess as a series of short scenes limo to a conclusion with at least one false ending which had the audience fooled into giving Skeete an ovation which had to fizzle out as the cheering clapping patrons realised their mistake.
Roy Williams other plays include The Death of England and The Death of England, Delroy both staged at the National, the latter being its opening production after the pandemic closure. That was a monologue, whereas this time it is more a series of duels between the two sisters with everyone else bystanders dragged into the fight. In the end the white girlfriend and Dawn suddenly discover that one may be white, one black but both are British – but the society the sisters fought to change has changed in ways they still have to come to terms with.

Simone: Rosie Day.
Jermaine: Ethan Hazzaes.
Tony: Trevor Lamb.
Marcia: Suzette Llewellyn.
Sylvia/PC Spencer: Yasmin Mwanza.
Dawn: Cherelle Skeete.

Director: Paulette Randall.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting Designer: Mark Jonathan.
Sound Designer: Delroy Murray.
Fight Director: Philip D’Orleans.

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