Written by Matt Jones with songs by Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, Leave to Remain is a love story about a young gay couple; British born Obi (who is of Nigerian heritage) and American Alex who both live and work in London.
The couple have been in a relationship for 10 months when Alex discovers that his employer is moving to the UAE. As his visa is tied to his job, there is only one option open to the couple that will legally allow Alex to stay in the UK, they must get married, something they had not discussed previously.
As the two very different families are bought together by the impending wedding, issues from Alex and Obi’s past they have not disclosed to each other are revealed, which impacts on the relationship between them and their parents.
Set design by Rebecca Brower is simplistic and modern, transporting the viewer to various locations with the use of movable props and neon lighting. Director and choreographer Robby Graham’s use of movement to convey the inner thoughts and emotions of the characters is innovative and effective.
The songs in this piece (my own personal favourite being The sea between us sung by the character Alex) are described by their composer as “West African high life music, mixed with electronic dance music”; all performed by the small talented cast accompanied on stage by skilful guitarist Chrio Blake.
Billy Cullum (Alex) and Tyrone Huntley (Obi) have excellent chemistry with each other and deliver strong individual performances in their leading roles that are packed with emotion reducing me to tears several times during this production.
There are strong performances by all of the small supporting cast; particularly Rakie Ayola and Cornell S John as Obi’s parents Grace and Kenneth, and Aretha Ayeh as Obi’s sister Chichi.
Leave to Remain is described as a play with songs rather than a musical, and at times I felt this caused the piece to feel disjointed, however, this does not take away from the quality of the performances.
Leave to Remain is a raw, real, emotional love story for 2019 and thoroughly deserved the spontaneous standing ovation from the sell out West London audience.
Leave to Remain is at the Lyric Hammersmith from the 18th January – 16th February (previews 18th – 23rd January). The album by Kele Okereke is available to download from 26th January 2019.
Theatretastic rating 4/5:
We say: “Leave to Remain is a raw, real, emotional love story for 2019 and thoroughly deserved the spontaneous standing ovation from the sell out West London audience.”