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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: GANGSTA BABY @ THE HOPE THEATRE

🎭 Gangsta Baby 

📍 The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RL                             

🗓 Saturday 13th January 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



A HARD HITTING DELIGHT


Currently playing at The Hope Theatre in London, Gangsta Baby is a hard-hitting whirlwind of a show which doesn’t shy away from brutal honesty. At times this play can be a difficult watch but that’s only because of the subject matter. This feels like a truly socially important piece of theatre that opens your mind into the dark underbelly of life.


As you enter the performance space you notice the seating is on all four sides of the stage with the actors inhabiting the  four corners. We first meet Junior, the central character and self proclaimed ‘town whore’ who is very open about his life and how he makes his money. It is interesting how he seems to be able to compartmentalise the different aspects of his world and shut off emotion when needed.


Cameron Raasdal-Munro is a sensation as he portrays the intricacies of the damaged Junior’s character. He instantly engages the audience and you utterly believe every word he says. He has a unique way of drawing the audience in from the very beginning and it’s almost as if you experience shared emotions with him throughout which is incredibly powerful.


Raasdal-Munro also wrote the play and it is evident just how much he understands the nuances of Junior. He is an unbelievable creative who is sure to have an incredible career in the industry. I’m already excited to see future works from him.



The piece is directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE and when matched with the incredible writing this is one of the strongest creative teams I have experienced in a long time. Beadle-Blair uses the small performance space beautifully, never forgetting that the audience surrounds the action. 


The second character to enter the story is Mitch. Portrayed by Nathaniel Horne, Mitch is employing the services of Junior and enters somewhat nervously. As they discuss the role play that they will engage in, childhood experiences are discussed and no matter the background, these memories are sure to resonate with anyone who was the outcast queer kid when they were young.


One thing Gangsta Baby has in spades is honesty. The story feels very raw and has utter realism about it. The timeline flip-flops between present day and past memories of Junior but this is in no way confusing. When we head back in time we meet Pete, who is Junior’s step-brother. 


Played by Julian Brett, Pete is trans and shares an unbreakable bond with Junior. Although strained at times, there is no denying the love that these two characters have for one another and while not everything they do is 100% legal, the relationship between the two is heartwarming.


The final character in the play is Junior’s father Senior who is not a nice person at all. He is heavily involved in deeply criminal institutions and is a violent narcissist. As an audience member I felt real hate for him as he consistently and deliberately misgenders Pete, physically and mentally abuses Junior (even as a child) and commits murder with utter nonchalance. 


It is not often I feel such a strong dislike for a character as I did for Senior, but the fact that I did was a real testament to the quality of the writing and acting.



The acting on display from the entire cast was absolutely breathtaking and as they unapologetically told the story there were times when I felt sick to the stomach. I was completely drawn in and felt emotionally involved with them all. The intimacy of the space combined with the sheer talent on display here is an experience that’s not to be missed.


It felt like an utter privilege to be a witness to this phenomenal craftsmanship which is a complete masterclass on how to deliver a story. There is minimal lighting and no set but it is not needed. When a story is this strong and has been produced with such attention to detail things like a set becomes insignificant.


Gangsta Baby showcases some extremely upsetting scenes and features suicide attempts, drug use, hate speech and child abuse. But these are all shown sensitively and each has a vital role within the story. Nothing here feels like a gimmick or is there just to shock. Each scene has been carefully curated to show real experiences and never oversteps boundaries.


I predict a string future for this play, but I do feel that it needs to stick to smaller venues because too big a venue could mean that some of the intensity of the piece is lost. One thing’s for sure though, Gangsta Baby is the hottest ticket in town right now and I cannot recommend the show enough.


The show is currently playing at The Hope Theatre and has performances until Saturday 27th January. If you’re in London then head to https://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/gangsta-baby/ to secure your tickets before it’s too late.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.


My ticket for this performance of Gangsta Baby was gifted by Diaries of Reality who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.



CAST:

Cameron Raasdal-Munro as Junior; Nathaniel Horne as Mitch; Julian Brett as Pete; Nicholas Clarke as Senior


RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hour 20 minutes, with no interval


CONTENT WARNINGS:

Strong language; Hate speech; Sexual content; Violence; Child abuse; Suicide; Drug use; Illegal activities; Aerosol use


AGE RECOMMENDATION:

Gangsta Baby is rated 18+ meaning under 18’s are not permitted in the theatre for this performance



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