Black T-shirt Collection
Ellams, a Londoner born in Nigeria, is very good at mixing direct speech with reported action in the tale of two foster brothers building a global market for their T-shirt brand. Their journey from small town market to big business in Cairo takes them via various dodgy projects, homosexual encounters, bitter fall-out and finally to catastrophe.
But it’s not so much a show as a show-case for a talented writer mixing his jazz riffs with his bolshie hip hop, his narrative arcs with his flat-out declamations. There’s a sense all the time of difficulties back home, and nothing really goes right with the enterprise as a result.
Still, as an example of new work and new voices bubbling under, the National is justified in giving Ellams house room in a co-production with Fuel; and Ellams’s own work (in Michael Vale’s design) as a graphic artist is certainly impressive – his black and white comic strip drawings, mostly evoking his own cultural alienation, have the power and potential of a good graphic novel.