- Almeida Theatre
- Until the 13th of August 2021
- From £10 (student prices available)
It is rare to see a play in London that manages to capture well on stage the intimate and emotional connection shared between two straight men (let alone black). It is refreshing to see Lolita Chakrabarti’s latest creation, Hymn, not only put this depiction of masculinity front and centre but deliver a play that is as moving and thoughtful as it is energetic and playful. The narrative follows Benny (Danny Sapani) and Gil (Adrian Lester) as their paths collide at Gil’s father’s funeral. At first strangers, we see their relationship, forged under stress and grief, develop into a sincere and affecting bond that tugged on the heartstrings of the entire audience.
Known forever to me as Mickey Bricks from Hustle, Lester plays Gil (a serial entrepreneur inheriting his father’s businesses) with his slick signature charm; conveying the same insatiable ambition for something greater. Sapani (Killing Eve) plays a more reserved character: initially unsure and defensive, his depiction gives way to a strong and assured father figure. I knew going in that Lester and Sapani were acting powerhouses, so it was surprisingly delightful the show let them show off a much more joyous, bashful side during their many musical stylings. From breakdancing to twerking, these guys really let loose and the house was in rapturous applause and stitches! The music and vocals were enjoyable throughout (Sapani has a truly amazing voice) and were adeptly integrated into the production as a whole to indicate the progression of time.
Hymn is a story about friendship, family, and fatherhood.
What did not work for me was the pacing and balance of the play. I could watch these two actors talk and fight and hug and dance all night; but this is a short play and as time ticked on I began to worry the slow burn might never flash to light. Fortunately, we got our ending, but the tail end of the drama felt rushed and almost unfinished. The dialogue was authentic and captivating, with sporadic fourth wall breaks pulling in the audience, but there were moments of soliloquy (particularly in the penultimate scenes) that failed to resonate with me. I wonder if my experience was impacted by a dislike for some of the microphone sound effects used in the performance as I found the scenes without much more compelling. The actors made good use of the space but overall the set design did not lend itself to inconspicuous costume changes and prop changeovers.
Hymn is ultimately a story about friendship, family and fatherhood; one which works for the most part despite some minor flaws. Following its extremely successful livestreamed performances earlier this year, Hymn is definitely a play to go out and see. There is really something for everyone and I challenge anyone not to be smiling after the rendition of The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. Hymn runs at the Almedia Theatre until the 13th of August and discounted student tickets can be bought directly from their box office.