A hauntingly beautiful play blending spoken word and poetry that brings audiences the highs and lows of Little D’s life. It’s a story about an unbreakable bond between father and son, the grief of losing a parent and identity as well as the experiences as a young Black boy. Grief and loss hand in hand while reflection and peace waited for the calamity to subdue.
David Alade takes the stage and shares a personal story. He is the narrator looking at a child called Little D and all the characters needed for the story. His mannerisms changing to fit each character was all that was needed for the audience to understand who he was playing. The simplicity of it makes you forget for a second that this performance is not just a performance.
We watched as Little D grew from child to year 7 to university and whatever came after. Laughter and tears follow the young child growing up as he narrates his story, a coming of age. From the hilarious and accurate portrayal of year 7’s and 8’s to tear-jerking loss, we watch events change Little D and hear his silent thoughts. Powerful, beautiful and gripping, Sunny Side Up laid emotions bare on the stage.
The set was simple, with a wooden bench in the middle and cages all around. We’re first introduced to the actor who walks on stage behind the cages, locked out to us. The delivery was beautiful and emotions were sung. Many times Little D used poetry to express his feelings and it felt free. Despite the pain he holds, he can create something beautiful. The lights and smoke embraced Little D, reminding us that this was his story. The set worked in its simplicity never removing the focus on the storyteller.
And the cages made me laugh when Little D evolved from child to year 7. Many students thought secondary school was a cage, a prison!
The story is Little D’s and his only, yet connections are made in the audience who can relate. Whether it be living on an estate, the school environment to cancer and dementia and the relationships and bonds formed with parents, the story reminds us of our own highs and lows. And to reflect inwardly on our own experiences.
The vulnerability shown on that stage at Theatre Peckham was human and sincere aided by the beautiful script and a delivery that was lyrical. Space between events is given for audiences to think about what was said and seen - a break for the audience’s heart to rest. It added to the meaning of the performance that feelings were okay to be felt. Remember this isn’t just a performance.
The music and soundbites that fitted through helped build tension, bringing even more life to the scenes. His own words echoed again around the caged setting after the loss of his father and the pain he experiences from remembering what he had said privately was haunting. It reverberated almost like it was taunting Little D for his thoughts. And yet they didn’t weigh him down, rather we watched him reflect and do his best to move on.
The ending comes and Little D is revealed to be David Alade himself, the performance was more than a show, but a love letter to his father and memories.
You can watch Sunny Side Up at Theatre Peckham until March 4.
To find out more about Sunny Side Up and the production, listen more here, a podcast exploring more about the play.