RGS Guildford courtyard with students

The Lonely Londoners at Jermyn Street Theatre

The Upper Sixth A-Level English Literature students were fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of the first-ever stage adaptation of Sam Selvon’s iconic novella about the Windrush Generation, The Lonely Londoners. The production was performed at Jermyn Street Theatre, an intimate space close to Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London’s West End, and it has already started to receive extremely favourable reviews in The StandardThe Telegraph and The Times.

The novella was first published in 1956 and has been immortalised as a Penguin Modern Classic. It details the lives of a group of immigrants, largely from Britain’s former Caribbean colonies, as they struggle to settle into their new lives in 1950s London, a city rife with both insidious and overt racism. The playwright Roy Williams has expertly and empathetically adapted the novella for the stage by including its most striking moments as well as introducing new elements, such as the imagined backstory of the protagonist and veteran émigré Moses Aloetta. In a novella that is a patchwork of different immigrants’ narratives, Williams has chosen to focus on the characters of Agnes, Big City, Galahad, Lewis, Moses and Tanty with the haunting addition of Moses’ idealised partner Christina, whom he has left behind in Trinidad and is introduced through a series of dreamscapes.

The play contained an enthralling blend of choreographed dance sequences, monologues and scenes of conflict, which successfully conveyed the novella’s most challenging themes such domestic abuse, misogyny, racial prejudice and sexual objectification. The students were highly impressed with the production and their comparisons of it to the studied text lasted long into the train journey home. Thomas McLean also noticed that sitting in the audience was Roy Williams himself and, on the way out of the theatre, the class was able to meet the dramatist, providing a memorable end to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.