Review – Black T-shirt Collection, National Theatre

Monday 14 May 2012

Not wishing to be pilloried yet again for being culturally insensitive, the Whingers chickened out of using their tickets for Black T-Shirt Collection in case they didn’t like it and said so. So they gave them to their friend Nina instead: 

When the offer of two tickets came up to see the Black T-Shirt Collection, I quickly conducted the obligatory Google research, watched a brief snippet of the show, then snapped up the offer.

Having arranged for a friend to join I explained we’d be watching a 70 minute monologue written and performed by Nigerian born Inua Ellams. I’d read that on the net.

Ten minutes into the performance my friend and I were both pulling faces, throwing conspicuous frowns at each other, puzzled that we weren’t finding any of the jokes funny.

My friend suggested we leave. I told her we weren’t allowed to as I’d promised to write a review for the WEW. So we remained in our seats, becoming increasingly mystified by the guffaws of laughter coming from some sections of the audience.

Forcing myself to concentrate on the storyline I attempted to ignore my friend, leaning forward awkwardly in my uncomfortable seat trying hard to feign interest.

The sound of a mobile phone vibrating triggered an impressive reflex action that sent my hand flying into my handbag. The horror and shame of being the annoying theatre goer was quickly dispelled and I heaved relief on finding that my phone was switched off. But despair quickly replaced relief as I managed to knock over my cup of gin and tonic in the frantic process. This was very bad news as I was dependant on the alcohol as a sedative to ease the irritation caused by Ellam’s annoying hyper-pronunciation.

The story is about a Nigerian Christian lad adopted into a Muslim family. Muslim and Christian foster brothers have a complicated affair whilst working to set up their ‘Black t-shirt Collection’ company which takes them round the world. Travelling to Morocco, London and China they end up with child slave labour blood on their hands.

I tried keeping up with biblical Matthew and Islamic Mohamed. I tried keeping pace with their confusion over their religiously bound sexuality and with their hip-hopping around the world.

I stayed wearily to the end, as I felt Ellam deserved applause for his admirable use of descriptive prose. I’d rather have read the script than seen it performed. I award him a black t-shirt mark for failing to capture my attention with his delivery, which was more literary and less dramatic than I would have liked.


One glass of WEW whine and that only to replace my spilt gin and tonic.


One Response to “Review – Black T-shirt Collection, National Theatre”

  1. Ged Ladd Says:

    We must have seen different productions. Daisy and I were mightily impressed by this piece.

    It was stylish. Is was descriptive. It was pacey. It was at times funny, although some of the laughter is (intentionally I’m sure) embarassed laughter rather than hilarity laughter.

    Don’t listen to Nina, folks, go so this highly original and thought-provoking piece.

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