There is no doubt that Bola Agbaje is a talented writer with a great future ahead of her, but although her writing is funny and incisive, it fails to make a deeper emotional impact. Previous creation Detaining Justice took an important topic and created what felt more like a series of sketches rather than a truly hard-hitting play, while her most recent work, Off The Endz, is extremely witty but fails to say anything particularly interesting.
Agbaje's strength lies in her ability to understand small segments of the community. Her language is realistic and cutting, her situations all too familiar. In Off The Endz, we see the return of chaotic David into polite society after a spell in jail. David, played with attack by a darkly funny Ashley Walters, comes back into his friend Kojo's life and creates disorder and drama where previously there was none. David has no understanding of normal life, he lives according to his own rules and sucks businessman Kojo (a strong Daniel Francis), who, along with partner Sharon (an under-utilised Lorraine Burroughs), has been trying to help David live a better life, further into his life of crime.
This kind of writing is a positive thing for the Royal Court, as it attracts a whole new audience - both age and ethnicity-wise. Agbaje's reputation has grown massively over the past year and her writing talent is certainly not to be sniffed at, but still it feels as if something is missing from her work. There's no massive shock to round her arcs off, nothing particularly new being said - Agbaje writes about the world she knows and understands, but a little too intimately to make it a truly thrilling visit for a theatre-goer.
While all concerned created good work with somewhat unexciting material, the real stand-out here was the set. Designed by the highly experienced Ultz, who has worked with Boy Blue and on Da Boyz, it utilised fluorescent graffiti against a white surface to truly stunning effect, while the thumping music, composed by the wonderful Sophie Solomon, blended well with the dark nature of the story. Gorgeous though both these elements were, it's not really a fantastic thing when the set and music completely overpower the words. Something to cogitate on for next time, perhaps.
This review originally appeared on Broadwayworld