Beneatha’s Place, Young Vic, 2023
Photo: Johan Persson
  • Theatre, Drama
  • Recommended


Beneatha’s Place

3 out of 5 stars

Kwame Kwei-Armah’s quasi ‘Raisin in the Sun’ sequel is brimming with ideas, some good, some not so good

Andrzej Lukowski

Time Out says

Kwame Kwei-Armah’s play ‘Beneatha’s Place’ is nominally a Nigeria-set follow-up to Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, with its two acts comprising further adventures for Hansberry’s character Beneatha, who quit Chicago for Lagos at the end of the 1959 masterpiece. 

Don’t get too distracted by that, though. Yes, ‘Beneatha’s House’ is littered with easter eggs, and concerned with many of the same ideas as Hansberry. But it isn’t really a sequel tonally, and is more a play of ideas than something you need crib notes to follow.

An almost unprocessable amount of stuff happens in the first act, which begins with Beneatha (Cherrelle Skeete) and her new Nigerian husband Joseph (Zackary Momoh) arriving at their fancy new house in Lagos, 1959. In the course of literally about 50 minutes they encounter patronising white missionaries, a light relief auntie, a CIA spook and become heavily – and ultimately, shockingly – embroiled in the power struggles of pre-independence Nigeria. It is melodramatic as hell, and for all her undoubted charisma and depth of feeling, Skeete’s Beneatha is naggingly lacking in agency, reduced to looking on in bemusement as mad thing after mad thing happens. There’s a definite exhilaration to the barrage of ideas in Kwei-Armah’s text, and some of the events very smartly echo ‘A Raisin…’. But it might have been better spread over a couple of hours than its current, whiplash-inducing pace. 

Plus it would basically be fine to eject the second half, a clunky academic satire that picks up the story some 50 years later. Beneatha – Skeete again – is now an eminent social academic. The faculty of her department of ethnic studies is largely white except for her and Wale (Momoh), the son of an oil billionaire. The staff have decamped to Nigeria on business and Beneatha has decided they should have a crunch meeting about the department’s future in her old Lagos house, which she has never previously returned to, but has been unwilling to let go of these 50 years (IT’S A METAPHOR). 

The faculty is debating whether to keep African American studies as a major or replace it with one in ‘critical whiteness’, which is a potentially very entertaining idea that Kwei-Armah largely squanders. He’s just not a funny enough writer to pull it off as comedy, or incisive enough to pull it off as comment on Black America.

He has written some genuinely great plays, and you expect a playwright-artistic director to stage his own work. But the fact is that ‘Beneatha’s Place’ feels overshadowed, not only by ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, but also all the wildly inventive Black American writing about Black American identity that’s kicking around at the moment (see ‘A Strange Loop’ at the Barbican or ‘Tambo & Bones’ at TRSE). This is only the second play to receive a full run at the Young Vic this year, and it’s ultimately a pretty frustrating use of one of London’s great stages.


£12-£50. Runs 2hr 15min
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