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Review: Sleepova at the Bush Theatre

By Liv Burton Published 6 March 2023

Last night, I had the pleasure of visiting the Bush Theatre. Despite living only 10 minutes away, it was my first visit, and its legacy certainly preceded it well. The bar is charming and homely, and despite the cool energy of the audience and theatre, it feels completely unpretentious, even offering customers the opportunity to buy monster munch for their bar and theatre snacks.

The Holloway’s thrust staging, and cosy capacity of just 180 people is a viewer’s dream, ensuring a great eyeshot from any seat. It also made the perfect home for Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini’s new play, ‘Sleepova’.

Sleepova feels like a love letter to female friendships and young Black women. It follows the stories of cartoon and pop-punk loving Shan, the group’s default leader, who is battling Sickle cell disease. Also, Rey, a queer, bi-racial girl who is struggling with her identity in a white household; Elle, a devout Christian under the thumb of her strict mother, and finally Funmi, a proud Nigerian, who absolutely acts as the group’s comic relief.

The girls, three of which are making their stage debuts, are played by BAFTA Rising Star Award winner Bukky Bakray (Rocks), Amber Grappy (HBO’s The Baby), Aliyah Odoffin (BBC’s Everything I Know About Love) and Shayde Sinclair (professional debut). 

The story starts with a sleepover (who would’ve guessed it?) on the night of Shan’s 16th birthday, and follows the friends through their final years in education. In this time, they experience so much of what most of us will remember as teenagers – heartbreak, fall-outs, identity crises, the loss of loved ones and inevitable insecurity.

If I had to summarise the production in one word, it would be heartwarming. Seeing the 4 friends weather their teenage years together takes you right back to your formative years. The production perfectly captures the beauty of mundanity at that age, spending hours talking about next-to-nothing with your friends. 

The performances were convincing and the chemistry between the actors was undeniable. Its raw and rough edges felt perfectly on brand for the characters, and almost made the whole thing feel like an immersive experience. I would recommend a trip to the Bush Theatre before the production closes on 8th April to anyone, but particularly to any young people who might relate to the genuine and empathetic tale of the teen existence.


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