Little Baby Jesus by Arinze Kene | Theatre Review

The dream team of playwright/actor Arinze Kene and director Ché Walker are back at The Oval Theatre, South London with Little Baby Jesus.

First staged at the Oval as part of 2010’s 33% Season this coming-of-age tale with a twist is comprised of three separate but occasionally intertwining monologues by Kehinde (Fiston Barek), Joanne (Seroca Davis) and Rugrat (Akemnji Ndifornyen). The trio share animated anecdotes about the trials and tribulations that hurl them towards adulthood, ready or not.

Kene’s apparently random, dark-humoured, highly intelligent script nevertheless borrows readily from a variety of obvious sources. Appropriations from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and John Singleton’s Boyz’n’the Hood can be spotted. Yet it all comes together so splendidly you’d be inclined not to quibble.

The cast is outstanding. Working with an actor of Ndifornyen’s calibre must be a playwright’s dream. His Rugrat is a force of nature. He switches from anecdotal character to anecdotal character with an ease that dazzles.

Seroca Davis is equally magnetic; there’s a precociousness to her Joanne that betrays youthful vulnerability as much as worldliness. Fiston Barek’s Kehinde is sensitive and impassioned (although this pedantic reviewer noted that the young actor’s affectation of a Yoruba accent is far more Serengeti than Lagos).

Socially conscious at heart, Little Baby Jesus covers much scope. By way of the latest inner-city argot, it incorporates references from the bible and Greek mythology as well as everyday schoolyard folklore. Three seemingly independent, desultory narratives are eventually tied together nigh-on seamlessly. A holistic script, inspired casting and Walker’s vivid direction converge to make a transcendent, subtly astonishing piece of theatre.

Little Baby Jesus is on at Oval House Theatre, London until June 15, 2011. For further information visit

Photograph by Robert Day