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Review: White Teeth, at Kiln Theatre

Adaptation of Zadie Smith’s best-selling novel, which celebrates everyday multicultural folk, is both heartfelt and absurd

08 November, 2018 — By Angela Cobbinah

Ayesha Antoine in White Teeth. Photos: Mark Douet

THIS stage adaptation of Zadie Smith’s best-selling novel White Teeth looks like being the perfect vehicle for the newly named Kiln Theatre, set as it is in its Kilburn heartland and brimming with the energy and warmth that comes from any community-inspired endeavour.

Essentially a celebration of everyday multicultural folk, namely the Joneses, the Iqbals and the Chalfens, the cosy feel-good factor is more than a little helped along by music composed by Paul Englishby, played live and incorporating a range of genres, from the inevitable hip hop to vaudeville in a nod to the decades the plot straddles, from wartime to the new millennium.

Spectacular opening number, High Road, sets the tone of a story that is both heartfelt and absurd as London’s “multi-culti muddle” is re-imagined following an incident with an anaesthetic syringe that sends dentist Rosie Jones (Amanda Wilkin) into a coma. In her knocked-out state, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, witnessing her half-English, half-Jamaican mum Irie (Ayesha Antoine) as a schoolgirl, and the lives of her grandparents and their friends and associates.

The convoluted proceedings begin to take on a pantomime aspect, often hilarious like the “chemical warfare” afro hair salon scene, but sometimes just plain silly. Topping the lively 14-strong ensemble in the talent stakes is Michele Austin’s Mad Mary, witch, wise woman and Greek chorus rolled into one, whose imposing presence manages to hold the whole show together.

Until December 22
020 7328 1000

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