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Black T-Shirt Collection

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Black T-shirt Collection

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Performance poet Inua Ellams returns to the National with this contemporary fable woven from real world geopolitics. As their fashion line of bespoke black T-shirts expands into mass production, two Nigerian foster brothers find themselves swept around the world by market forces like pollen in the wind.

Muhammed and adopted Matthew are opposites: one a charismatic, business-minded Muslim, the other a reserved Christian artist. When Muhammed's homosexuality is outed, they're forced to leave their home nation – and family – for Egypt. With business blossoming, running away becomes a profit-driven relocation.

It's like Daedalus and Icarus re-imagined in consumer capitalist terms, with their eventual downfall coming in a Chinese fabric factory. However, fables leave little room for substantial interrogation and, without room for qualifications, Ellams's portrait of their world is too broad. Making London a model of multicultural harmony seems particularly problematic.

Nonetheless, you sink into his storytelling, which paints vivid mental images and, thanks to minimal yet eloquent sound, a real sense of location. Ellams has an easy, laid-back charisma and pares poetic flair for narrative with admirable restraint. The wordsmith remains present, though, and his sentences, with their sophisticated flavour and texture combinations, can be something of a Michelin-starred mouthful.


£12-£15. Runs 1hr 10mins. In rep
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