A Boy and His Soul
Tony Award nominated actor Colman Domingo brings his music-infused monologue to the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn
US actor Colman Domingo has limitless supplies of infectious energy. Indeed, he works up such a sweat during this soul-infused tale of a boy's coming-of-age in West Philadelphia that he regularly has to towel himself down, like a boxer between rounds.
What he presents is an enjoyable tale of a (clearly autobiographical) young man, Jay, finding his place in the world through the records he finds in his parents' basement, evocatively created by designer Richard Kent.
The tracklist is like a greatest hits album - from James Brown to Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass to Michael Jackson. Domingo sings and jives along to the records, revealing a fine voice that will be heard in fuller form when he reprises his role in The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic next month.
Jay starts out with high-minded aspirations to study Bach, but soon finds he's unable to resist the call of the music beloved of his own family, prompted by an accidental encounter with 70s iconoclasts Earth, Wind and Fire. "I couldn't hide from my SOUL," he shouts, breaking into a(nother) ball-busting boogie.
The crux of the story is Jay's coming out to his family, from his uber-straight brother to his crestfallen mother; "you don't wear scarves and things do you?" she asks in shock. These scenes may feel a little too familiar, but they're painted with great humour and warmth.
Domingo's rather fervent style of delivery takes a while to attune to, and at times the pace lags as he relays another encounter, or shares his reverence for another soul artist. In fact it's probably a good 20 minutes too long, and doesn't build to the emotional sucker-punch one might expect.
But its sprinkling of sharp observations coupled with a heartfelt love for the music makes A Boy and His Soul hard to resist. It's not often I say this, but it's a shame we're not given the chance to get on our feet and jive along at the end.