Chewing Gum Dreams, The Shed, National Theatre
Leaving Guildhall School of Music and Drama to perform your self-penned monologue in a dormant warehouse in Hackney Wick is not a decision that would occur to many drama students. With past graduates including Orlando Bloom, Daniel Craig and The Wire’s Dominic West, the most obvious option would seem to be to stay on. Once you see Michaela Coel perform however, it is undeniably clear she made the right choice. Once you also consider Guildhall’s most successful stars are white males, Coel’s choice to work on her own show for her final performance rather than take on a role with one line in one of the school’s big shows makes for a pretty indisputable decision.
Inspired by her own school, friends and experiences growing up in Tower Hamlets, Coel found Chewing Gum Dreams came to her in a surge of writing between classes. Coming across The Yard; a warehouse converted in to a theatre out of recycled and reclaimed materials, Coel pushed for them to consider the monologue for a four day run, won the Alfred Fagon Award, and the rest is history. Or not. Chewing Gum Dreams is back, this time at The National’s pop up space The Shed, a theatre which Coel has built up quite a relationship with. Showcasing her strong stage presence and versatility while starring in both Blurred Lines and Home at The National over the past months, performing Chewing Gum Dreams simply makes a lot of sense.
Bringing a new lease of life to the regularly visited themes of inner city adolescence, Coel’s 14-year-old self based character could easily have been plucked from Top Boy, the sequel of which Coel starred in herself, however the lack of any filter on the vulgar dialogue and obscene logic of Michaela and her friends makes for the most viscerally genuine account of growing up in London yet. More a one woman show than a monologue, with no set apart from a single chair, Coel flicks between outspoken student to demeaning teacher and back to abusive boyfriend with great skill . Her energy is explosive and her stage presence charismatic. Her writing talent is evident in her ability to pick up references made in comedic scenes, and place them again later on within awfully emotional moments. With a Channel 4 pilot for Chewing Gum Dreams on the horizon, as well as being commissioned for a piece by The Bush Theatre, Coel is fast becoming a highly sought after woman, so don’t miss out on this incredibly intimate piece.
Info: Chewing Gum Dreams is at The Shed, National Theatre until April 5, 2014 / book tickets