A reviews round-up for Sleepova, which has opened at the Bush Theatre in London.
Sleepova marks the stage debut of BAFTA Rising Star Award winner Bukky Bakray (Rocks), alongside a cast that includes Amber Grappy (HBO’s The Baby), Aliyah Odoffin (BBC’s Everything I Know About Love) and Shayde Sinclair (professional debut).
Written by Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini (Little Miss Burden), and directed by Jade Lewis (Quarter Life Crisis), the wider creative team includes Assistant Director (Placement) – Apoorva Anagalli; Set and Costume Designer – Cara Evans; Dramaturg – Deirdre O’Halloran; Lighting Designer – Elliot Griggs; Fight and Intimacy Director – Enric Ortuño; Movement Director – Gabrielle Nimo; Costume Supervisor – Imogen Brown; Casting – Jatinder Chera; Rehearsal Scribe – Jennifer Okolo; Sound Associate – Laura Howard; Assistant Production Manager – Lewis Copeland; Company Stage Manager – Lucy Ventham; Production Manager – Pete Rickards; Composer – Romarna Campbell; Production Technician – Rori Endersby; Assistant Stage Manager – Sophie Haliburn; Production Dramatherapist – Wabriya King; and Sound Designer – Xana.
Sleepova runs at the Bush Theatre until 8 April 2023.
"You can’t help but fall in love with this joyous, exuberant show"
"A glorious young cast brings authentic energy to a coming of age tale of female friendship"
"Four Millennial London black girls navigate grown-up problems between the ages of 16 and 18 in this completely delightful show. Illness, bereavement, exams, sexuality and romantic disappointment swirl through the mix before the quartet pledge undying loyalty and look forward – crushing irony alert! – to a better life in 2019."
"Though attention has focused on the casting of Bukky Bakray, breakout star of the 2019 film Rocks, Sleepova is an ensemble piece driven by a strong script that feels improvised but is the work of Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini."
"Bakray proves a captivatingly subtle presence on stage but is absolutely matched by her co-stars. She, Grappy and Sinclair are all making their stage debuts here: Odoffin has done precisely one play before (Clybourne Park at the Park Theatre last year: she was great)"
"Bukky Bakray makes a tremendous stage debut in Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini’s exuberant drama about four Black teenage best friends"
"Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini’s new play feels rough, juddery and full of life. The Jade Lewis-directed coming-of-age drama about four Black female friends in the months around their GCSEs is absolutely not what you’d call slick, and the relative inexperience of its four young actors – three of whom are making their stage debuts – is often felt in moments of ropey projection. And it’s all to the good: ‘Sleepova’ has a joyously all-over-the-shop energy, its imperfections and overexcitement perfectly matching the manic pace of the adolescence it’s depicting."
"To be clear, if the quartet of actors may lack a bit of polish, they absolutely make the play."
"The biggest name here is Bakray.. She is brilliant fun as Funmi, the unknowable wildcard of the group who effortlessly keeps her cool throughout the quartet’s adventures..."
"Starting at a birthday sleepover at Shan’s in the autumn of 2017, and ending with the girls seeing out 2018 together, the story is a slice of life that sees each of the group confronted by their own crisis. But it’s not really about the plot but the ride: they’re just incredibly fun characters to spend time with, and Lewis’s joltingly energetic production, pepped-up by pop songs and endearingly un-slick dance routines."
"Joyous rites-of-passage drama is a giddy sugar rush"
"Like a jar full of bright jelly beans, this new play by Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini is a sweet, vivid and joyous jumble. It’s stuffed with more ideas and plot strands than we can comfortably chew, and Ibini scatters them about with abandon rather than arranging them into a satisfying dramatic structure. But there’s such tenderness, humour and exuberance in the writing that it’s hard to resist. And Jade Lewis’ production, though it, too, needs a better defined shape and dynamics, is a giddy sugar rush."
"If it is effervescently entertaining to eavesdrop on their intimacy, we long for Ibini to dig a little deeper. Elle’s sexual awakening and her family’s shockingly extreme response in particular merits much weightier and more detailed exploration."
"It is a messy evening of female bonding – but when it’s this much fun, who would turn down the invitation?"
"A teenage pyjama party that bursts with life"
"Between the PJs-with-attitude and the popcorn, the hormones and the Haribos, there’s no shortage of secrets, shared jokes and soul-searching to make this new play as lively a gathering as any other teenage takeover of the small hours."
"Jade Lewis’s exuberant production revolves around the different fates of four schoolfriends"
"Sleepova works so well in part because of the easy, sparky chemistry between the cast members. This is a play specifically about the experience of young black women, yet there’s an instant universality to it that quickly has you wishing you’d turned up in your pyjamas with a sack of Haribos."
"It says something about the skill of Feyisayo Ibini’s writing that the plot is propelled by each character having a crisis without it seeming sensationalist or formulaic."
"A captivating safe space for teenage dreams and fears"
"Four girls joke, squabble and share their secrets in this exhilarating tableau of young friendship starring Rocks’ Bukky Bakray"
"Sleepova by Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini is a safe space of erupting energy, girlhood and teenage dreams... There is all the clumsiness and wide-eyed excitability of the best coming-of-age dramas even if the play artificially closes things too neatly by the end."
"Shayde Sinclair makes a storming stage debut as the devoutly religious Elle... The biggest name in the cast is Bukky Bakray, breakout star of the 2019 film Rocks; with staggering rawness and ease, Bakray exuberantly plays Funmi who embraces her Yoruba heritage."
"But the genius of this play is its ensemble. The striking quartet (completed by Aliyah Odoffin and Amber Grappy) make us believe they have been friends for years."
"More snap and pace, and this endearing ode to black womanhood could really fly"
"Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini’s latest explores unusual ground and has heart, but it feels like a sparky 90-minute play trapped in a far longer one"
"Ibini’s script, which is peppered with authentic Yoruba inflected rhythms of speech and humour, flashes with with one-line zingers and many moments of keenly observed commentary..."
"But it also feels like a sparky 90-minute play trying to emerge from some of the longueurs that sap the energy from its 130-minute duration."
"Some of that dissipation of tension is a function of Jade Lewis’s direction too. A little more paciness among the cast (some of who feel much older than 16) and clarity, especially in the use of disembodied voices, would have helped sustain the desirable tension to ensure that this play, although endearing, found its proper groove."
"A fab four get ready for bed"
"Sleepova begins with the surprising suggestion that we can stroll out of the show at any time, but, happily, Matilda Feyisayo Ibini, a Nigerian-British writer, teems with enough talent to keep us listening, laughing and firmly in our seats."
"The warm narrative, directed in a suitably laid-back style by Jade Lewis, gets untidier towards the end (too acceleratedly eventful within the time available), but each member of this fab four earns a star to herself."