A one-man show by Inua Ellams, Black T-Shirt Collection came to Bristol Old Vic’s metamorphic Studio last week as part of it’s UK run. This is Ellams’ second show, following 2010’s The 14th Tale, which received extremely positive reviews, and included a turn at London’s prestigious National Theatre.
Black T-Shirt Collection is Ellams’ new story, following the progress of foster brothers Matthew and Muhammed who unwittingly create a global t-shirt brand that brings them fame and success in unmanageable quantities. The brothers’ good fortune takes them from a gig in London to a market in Nigeria and a sweatshop in China. And also hones in on the issues of what it means to be a gay Muslim, and the ever-pertinent problem of dealing with unexpected fame and fortune.
An entirely one-person performance, Ellams takes to the stage with only a white box of t-shirts, and some black wooden blocks as props. Supported by occasional projected drawings of maps and cartoons to help us join the characters as they fly around the globe, and experience different shifts, Black T-Shirt Collection takes minimalist stage management to a new level, and to great effect.
Combining poetry into this theatrical story telling, Ellams succeeds in capturing the audience’s attention for the full 70 minutes of his show, and his delightful manner means we were concerned rather than annoyed when he vanished from the stage with no explanation for a few minutes towards the end… perhaps to check on his lines? It would be understandable if so – quite how one person can remember all that prose, as well as the correct cues to rearrange the prop furniture on, is staggering!
Ellams is clearly an emerging writer and performer to keep a close eye on.
To see what else is coming up at Bristol Old Vic, please click here.