Chewing Gum Dreams – reviews of 'devilish' teen satire

Mar 24, 2014

Newcomer Michaela Coel impresses with an 'appallingly funny' portrait of tough-talking teens

What you need to know
New one-woman play, Chewing Gum Dreams, has opened at The Shed, National Theatre. Written and performed by Michaela Coel, this solo show won her the Alfred Fagon Award for best new UK dramatist of Caribbean and African descent in 2012.

The monologue, directed by Nadia Fall, is a portrait of inner-city adolescents and their attitudes to sex, race and friendship. Coel's central character, Tracey, is a brash schoolgirl who travels the 67 bus, teasing her friends, getting crushes, fending off yobs, and avoiding an unpromising future. Runs until 5 April.

What the critics like
Coel gives "a scintillating performance that whizzes by in 45 minutes", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Her portrait of brassy yet naive adolescents is satirical and sympathetic and her main persona, Tracey, is appallingly funny.

Coel's sharp, unsentimental snapshot of inner-city teenage life is "devilishly funny", says Harriet Baker in the Financial Times. She performs with a fast-paced poetry and fearlessness, bringing multiple characters to life with vocal and physical fluency and presenting a world that is dark, yet also offers hope.

Chewing Gum Dreams is "a high-impact blast of teenage energy", as Coel takes us back to the tough-love Hackney streets of her childhood, says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. Coel has a cherishably vivid and mobile face and roams confidently over her space in a solo performance of quite some note.

What they don't like
"The script swerves a little too obviously between the comical and serious", from demotic chat to more poetic observations, says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. And the staging, with one scruffy chair and bald lighting changes, does little to benefit Coel – nonetheless, this is well worth a look.

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