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Zhe: [noun] undefined – Soho Theatre, London

Writer: Chuck Mike, Antonia Kemi Coker, Tonderai Munyevu

Director: Chuck Mike

Reviewer: Christopher Hong

[rating:5]

ZheWhen Antonia Kemi Coker mistook Tonderai Munyevu as a girl during an audition held by Chuck Mike, she realised they have a few things in common. Kemi Coker herself is often mistaken as a man and this has prompted her to take on Mike’s suggestion to create a work about her life. What was initially intended to be a piece about mistaken identity resulted in this interwoven autobiographicalpiece of both Kemi Coker and Munyevu’s lives.

Zhe is a gender-neutral pronoun and has a possible application to the two protagonists. It is easy to pigeonhole this play based on the specifics: being gay, being androgynous, being part of an ethnic minority in London. But this work is much more than that. It is a universal story of growing up, the ups and downs of life and about sharing the deepest and darkest moments. Normality is not something that is standardised and what might be unique is likely to be shared by someone we haven’t yet met. It is about people we meet along the way, childhood bullies and how parents shape our lives. These are universal themes that are innate in each of us and the collective understanding is palpable.

The superior text is humourous, direct and perfectly edited with every word the distilled essence of what is intended to be conveyed. The darker moments and spiral of self destruction are emphasised and marked with obvious importance but not dwelled upon. They are treated with honesty and in a breezy and positive manner. The dynamism between Kemi Coker and Munyevu is so fluid they could be the same person playing two parts, highlighted by their speaking some of their lines simultaneously. Their lives are so different and their voices remain distinct. There is a graceful flow to each story and the transition between the two stories is so seamless, it is as if they belong in a single narrative. Each story mirroring the peaks and troughs of their respective lives.

This is a beautifully crafted and moving piece of storytelling leaving one feeling great about life. Yes, there are dark and horrible things along the way, but it is also a celebration of what it is to be different and unique. One of the best pieces of theatre this year.

Runs until 8th December

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