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Sunset Baby

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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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.

Kenyatta Shakur (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 them.

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.

- Will Stone


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