Social Media

The Realness - The Big House Review

Reviewed by Lauren Russell
Disclaimer; tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

The Realness, by The Big House, is an urban musical following ex inmate Jay, played by the captivating Jake Walden, as he navigates back into East London lifeDetermined to stay on the straight and narrow Jay tries desperately to prove he is serious about his future and get his girlfriend Shanice back in his life. Feeling like a ‘literal wasteman’ working as a street cleaner trying to provide for his son Tyrone, gangster Leroy offers Jay an easy pick up for quick and big cash, but the slope is slippery, and Jay comes up against temptations he cannot refuse. Hamilton meets Top Boy in this musical portrayal of the twists and turns of London life. 

Photo by Dylan Nolte and Dan Corbett
The Big House is a charity set on transforming the lives of care leavers through theatre, encouraging them to draw upon their own life experiences. The extremely talented cast of The Realness is made up of performers from the programme and professionals, and the energy they each give throughout is electric. 

Written by Maureen Chadwick and David Waston, The Realness was first performed at The Big House Theatre in 2014, and revived this year with a new cast. Directed by Maggie Norris in a very edgy and intimate space, this high-quality production surpasses many west end musicals. I pray this show is snatched up for a run at a larger venue, it is certainly deserving.

The eclectic musical score by Kath Gotts, featuring rap, reggae, grime, and gospel, keeps the show exciting and is very refreshing against your typical musical theatre soundtrack – and just as catchy. The voice of the night was Amanda Posner, who played Adele – Jay’s mum, and her commitment tocharacter was outstanding. In fact, all the female charactershad their moment to shine, and shine they did. Anais Lonegave a moving performance of Shanice, Jay’s girlfriend, and her first song ‘Turn Around’ was real highlight. With Shanice and her three mates, all with prams, mocking Jay for attempting to walk straight back into his relationship with herFi Silverthorn’s unique and slick choreography is prominent here.

Photo by Dylan Nolte and Dan Corbett
The comical number ‘Ticket Man’ by Charmel Kolokothe charming ticket officer, was an audience favourite. The delivery of this song from the vocals to the fantastic backing dancers to the costumes was spot on, and no one was disappointed to have it reprised at the very end. I must also mention ‘Respectability wine’, which lives rent free in my mindthe connection between Jay and his friend Michael is especially strong during this upbeat number. Although the performance is raw and moving, it was equally as comedic and fun – and these momentsalong with one liners from ‘Little Miss Dizzy’ played by the believable Jahia Sanches, lift the show onto another level.

The plot is thick, and unpredictably riveting, however the radio presenter which acted as a sort of narrator was hit-and-miss, and there seemed to be a rush through the story of the second half. That said, this show brings a rollercoaster of emotions, and you will not stop talking about it after. One of the best casts I have seen in a long time, superbly directed by Norris.

If you want to experience real theatre, book your ticket now.
The Realness plays at The Big House, Hackney Downs Studios until Saturday 16th December 2023. Tickets are available from

Photo by Dylan Nolte and Dan Corbett

Post a Comment


Theme by STS