Elmina's Kitchen

National Theatre's Original London Production 2003

Original West End Production 2005


Play by Kwame Kwei-Armah. Deli, an ex-boxer and desperate father, is attempting to make an honest living while trying to hold both his business and family together. The Yardies are eating up Hackney and Digger's protection smacks more of threat than promise. Whilst searching for the winning formula to make his Caribbean cafť a success, he tries to keep his son Ashley away from the lure of Hackney's 'murder mile'. But in a place where acceptance comes on four wheels and respect through the barrel of a gun, how can a man save his son from temptation? Please Note: This play contains strong language and scenes of a violent nature.


National Theatre's Original London Production 2003

Previewed 23 May, Opened 29 May 2003, Closed 25 August 2003 (in repertory) at the Cottesloe Theatre

Presented by the National Theatre. The cast featured Joseph Patterson as 'Deli' and Emmanuel Idowu as 'Ashley' with DoŮa Croll as 'Anastasia', Oscar James as 'Baygee', Shaun Parkes as 'Digger' and George Harris as 'Clifton'. Musicians: Steve Rossell, Juldeh Camara and Atongo Zimba. Directed by Angus Jackson with designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Harvey T A Kemp and sound by Neil Alexander. Original songs and music by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Neil McArthur, George Harris and Oscar James.

"Elmina's Kitchen, a scorching drama at the National's Cottesloe Theatre, about the black experience in Britain's inner cities. It's a flawed piece, but there is no mistaking its raw power, humanity and urgent concern... [Kwame Kwei-Armah] is clearly a writer to watch... The play is uneven. At times it is excessively verbose and leisurely, and the West Indian street-talk means that for whities like me it is sometimes hard to follow... It's a gripping show, with a shattering denouement, and it was heartening to see the many black members of the first-night audience giving it such a rousing reception." The Daily Telegraph

"The playís themes occasionally have a slotted-in feel and structurally itís as predictable as they come as the drama heads towards an inevitable tragedy. But Kwame Kwei-Armah leavens it with humour and his dialogue crackles with life. He shows an easy command of the different registers of contemporary black language as the characters shift from RP to native Grenadian to hardcore Jamaican to black London (at times a glossary would help)... Elminaís Kitchen builds into a powerful, of-the-moment drama and a heartfelt plea for finding your potential without a gun. Itís a fine addition to Nicholas Hytnerís first season at the National." The Times

Elmina's Kitchen in London at the Cottesloe Theatre previewed from 23 May, opened on 29 May 2003 and closed 25 August 2003 - performed in repertory


Original West End Production 2005

Previewed 20 April 2005, Opened 26 April 2005, Closed 23 July 2005 at the Garrick Theatre

A transfer from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre of a 2005 re-cast and re-staged version of the National Theatre's original 2003 production. The cast featured Kwame Kwei-Armah as 'Deli' and Michael Obiora as 'Ashley' with Dona Croll as 'Anastasia', Oscar James as Baygee', Shaun Parkes as 'Digger' and Don Warrington as 'Clifton'. Musicians: Juldeh Camara and Atongo Zimba. Directed by Angus Jackson with designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Harvey T A Kemp and sound by Neil Alexander. Original songs and music by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Neil McArthur, George Harris and Oscar James.

"The power of this impressive, engrossing piece comes from Kwame Kwei-Armah's creation of a time, place and some strongly drawn individuals. The play, set in Hackney, East London, concerns three generations of fathers and sons, once West Indian, now British, and explores the idea of inheritance, the need to hold on to your roots but also to move onwards, upwards and out of the criminal ghetto... The writing is pithy and potent (though the thickness of the dialect occasionally got the better of me); the violence, when it comes, shocking and brutal; the performances superb. This is important, significant theatre." The Mail on Sunday

"Elmina's Kitchen is the first serious play about black Britain to be put on by a West End management for years. It is, though, an old-fashioned piece, bent on delivering a message: 'The true sign of intelligence is how a man deals with his environment.' The speaker is Deli, an almost painfully decent single father played by Kwame Kwei-Armah, and the moral environment he's talking about is the West Indian experience in Britain; the physical environment is the cafe he runs in Hackney, named after his revered mother and decorated with photos of black heroes. The old world is represented by the jovial Baygee, a zoot-suited rogue eager to do little but pursue feckless sex with compliant widows; the new is typified by Digger, a corn-rowed Grenadan gangster with an impenetrable accent, a tendency to brandish his gun in public and three mobile phones to connect him to his brutal clientele. The middle road is that taken by Deli, a reformed convict. Which path Ashley, Deli's son will opt for is the fulcrum of the play. The gaudy glamour of street culture is flaunted: the harmful absence of Caribbean fathers addressed; the absurdities of bling berated... Initially, Kwei-Armah plays for laughs, relying heavily on the affability of the older generation... All this is easy-going stuff - so easy-going the play takes an age to hit its stride. The stage seems under-populated, the action as short of buzz as the cafe is of business. In the second half, though, the director, Angus Jackson, ratchets up the tension and a litany of betrayals and blackmail leads to a harrowing coup de theatre that had the first night audience on its feet in ecstatic applause. Too much, perhaps, for a flawed, baggy play, though one whose vigour just about wins the day." The Sunday Telegraph

Elmina's Kitchen in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 20 April 2005, opened on 26 April 2005 and closed on 23 July 2005.