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A Cheeky Little Monologue not to be Missed

Lady (Tiajna Amayo) Photo © Craig Fuller.

Cheeky Little Brown, Belgrade Theatre B2 Stage, Coventry, running from Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 October 2023. Written by Nkenna Akunna. Directed by Chinonyerem Odimba and starring Tiajna Amayo.

A Tiata Fahodzi, Belgrade Theatre and Bristol Old Vic Co-Production.

Review by Ann Evans.

Cheeky Little Brown – it’s lively, loud (at times), sad (at times), clever, packed full of humour, music and familiar experiences that most of us will recognise from our youth, even though we might cringe at the memory! Altogether a rather different – and very enjoyable night out.

This is a coming-of-age story of two young Black women, best friends since they were five, who argued and fell out six months ago and haven’t seen each other since. Lady, brilliantly played by Tiajna Amayo is in fact the only character on stage but we get to know her friend and ex-lover Gemma, through the one-sided conversations, and narrative related by Lady. And the occasions when Tiajna takes on the role of Gemma to deliver an emotional speech or her hilarious interpretation of Jessie – Gemma’s new best friend.

Great solo performance by Tiajna Amayo. Photo © Craig Fuller.

The opening scene finds Lady at Gemma’s birthday party. She’s excited and nervous about seeing Gemma again after so long, and desperately hopes things will be good again between them. But it’s not to be. Amid the laughter, Lady’s bright and bubbly character and her attitude that she’s coping well, barely hides the fact that deep down her heart is breaking as Gemma clearly wants nothing to do with her.

After making a bit of a fool of herself at the party as well as dropping food on Gemma’s new rug, getting drunk and being sick in a food bowl, Lady heads home alone – finding a desperate need for her favourite late-night snack – a Donna Kebab, which even becomes the subject of one of the original songs that Tiajna sings in this musical monologue.

No spoilers regarding the ending of the play, suffice to know that these two young women are true to themselves and are finding their own paths through life.

We caught up with playwright Nkenna Akunna and actor Tiajna Amayo in the bar after the performance, where the audience was treated to some hot food – what else but chicken donna!

Nkenna Akunna and Tiajna Amayo at the Belgrade Theatre. Photo © Ann Evans.

Tiajna happily introduced the writer as: “The mastermind behind all of this!”

Which indeed she is. After writing the play she found the support of Tiata Fahodzi, Bristol Old Vic and the Belgrade Theatre, plus got a great team behind her including Director Chinonyerem Odimba.

Nkenna explained that the idea for Cheeky Little Brown all started in lockdown. “I think it was because we were all in lockdown and couldn’t see friends that inspired it,” she said. “I wanted to write a monologue; I wanted to write a play about friendship and breaking up; and I wanted to write something with music. I love writing music and singing.”

The go-ahead for the play only came in March 2023 and Nkenna found her perfect Cheeky Little Brown in actor Tiajna. “Playing Lady has been amazingly life changing!" said Tiajna. "This is my first adult, big, grown-up role! Yes, there were a lot of lines to learn, but it’s all credit to Nkenna’s writing. The script came so easily to me. I was born on the outskirts of Essex, so I grew up with girls like these. I knew the character of Lady who has so many facets to her, which I understood and recognised."

Cheeky Little Brown moves on to Derby Theatre next as the third leg of their Autumn Tour. They will be at Derby Theatre from 30 October to 3 November, and we wish them all the luck in the world.


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