REVIEW: LEAVE TO REMAIN (Lyric Hammersmith) ★★★★

Leave to Remain is a play written by Matt Jones and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. Don’t be fooled by the title, it’s not a play about Brexit; there’s a passing reference and a Visa issue but this is a love story, with songs.

When Jones and Okereke began collaborating, they wanted to tell a story about two gay men getting married when one of them isn’t sure. The story could have been a TV series or a graphic novel but it’s ended up in the theatre, told through drama, music and dance. The show contains new songs by Okereke performed by the cast; Okereke describes it as West African music mixed with electronic dance music (the album is available to download).

Leave to Remain is a love story set in modern day London. Obi (Tyrone Huntley) and Alex (Billy Cullum) are a young gay couple leading busy London lives. When Alex’s firm decides to move the London office to Abu Dhabi, his Visa comes into question and their relationship quickly takes a more serious turn. Alex proposes marriage as a way for him to stay in London. This union brings together Alex’s liberal American parents with Obi’s conservative Nigerian family and forces everyone to confront their pasts, reminding us that marriages don’t just change the lives of a couple, their family and friends are changed too.

The excellent cast has a lot to do and they do it all well. The Choreography is beautifully done and adds to the storytelling especially in the flashback scene showing Obi’s family discovering he’s gay and the awkward ‘meet the parents’ dinner. Leave to Remain was on many ‘shows to see in 2019’ lists and deserves to be there. It has a lot to say about relationships, culture and family.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Helen Maybanks


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