At first glance Sunset Baby - the final production in the Gate's Resist! season focusing on rebels and revolutionaries - pays homage to the black revolutionary
movement, but in reality this topic is merely a footnote.
(Ben Onwukwe) is a famous former black revolutionary in his 50s who has
sought out his estranged daughter Nina (Michelle Ashante) in a bid to
retrieve love letters sent to him by Nina's deceased mother while he was a
political prisoner, but left to Nina in her will after they were returned.
While Kenyatta was a hero in revolution it soon becomes apparent that he has
not been such a hero in the trials and tribulations of fatherhood and
raising a family. Nina, still bitter that her father put revolution before
family and deserted them, is not about to give him the letters that
journalists are offering tens of thousands for with a view to publishing
Penned by US playwright Dominique Morisseau and wonderfully directed by
Charlotte Westenra, Sunset Baby is a play performed at full throttle,
littered with pearls of wisdom and snapshots of everyday reality.
Kenyatta, oddly the most sympathetic character, shows kindly benevolence
that challenges the dim view many have of men who, for whatever reason, have
failed in family life and the unrealistic expectations on them to be the
knight in shining armour.
In the first of several monologues he records to video camera Kenyatta
states: "Fatherhood. Complex. Complicated. An abstract concept. Not clearly
definable. Child Support. Life being run by child support. Drama.
Suffocation. Lots of suffocation. Guilt. Lots of guilt. Freedom. Freedom
lost. Freedom never acquired."
In this he infers that relationships are the antithesis of the
freedom fighter since nobody is truly free while in them.
Nina, a hot-headed, head-strong young woman, is mercilessly cruel and
unforgiving towards her father and his efforts to reconcile with her, while
blaming him for any perceived failings in her life.
She makes her living through drug dealing and robbery with her boyfriend
Damon (Chu Omambala), who garners most of the laughs after his boasts to
Nina are shown up as hollow. In one scene he ebulliently tells Nina of all
the places he wants to take her but when she answers "Trafalgar Square", he
responds "London's kinda expensive, Nina".
And as one generation passes, Sunset Baby shows that the challenges of
commitment are no different for Nina and Damon, who seem destined to make
the same mistakes as Kenyatta.