Nkenna Akunna, playwright for cheeky little brown, reflects on the tragedy which is a failed night out
BY NKENNA AKUNNA, IMAGE BY CRAIG FULLER
There’s nothing quite like a failed night out in the city. The mix of disappointment, shame, and low-key self-betrayal is like no other. I’m the type to have to rally even when I want to go out, so the thought of all that effort for an evening of Ls? A tragedy. Bonus points if heartbreak has something to do with it.
I wrote a play called cheeky little brown about friendship breakups and queer heartbreak, and it takes place over one night in London. Lady, the protagonist, has crossed the river for her best friend Gemma’s 25th birthday and, perhaps, against her best judgment, she’s convinced herself that everything will go well. The gag is, Lady and Gemma aren’t really best friends anymore. They haven’t spoken in six months, and over the course of the play, the audience finds out why.
Heartbreak is hard for anyone, but queer emotions, particularly baby queer emotions, take on a whole other intensity. It feels like the world is ending and you’re always missing out. Absolutely everything is personal. I explore those feelings in the play and where they might take someone. For Lady? They land her on the night bus.
Now let’s be honest, the night bus is rarely anyone’s first choice. It’s one thing to share that liminal space with a group of friends, but by yourself? Alone with strangers alone? A toss-up at best. Imagine running into an aunty coming home from the graveyard nurse shift at Guy’s, while you’re smelling like outside went stale? Or sitting behind the oblivious man lipsing up his lamb donner like they need some privacy. Some of us have misophonia, you prick!
The feeling really depends on where you are, and who’s sharing the journey with you, but best case scenario the night bus sits in that special emotional space: a mix of danger, amusement, impatience, tiredness, the buzz of where you’ve just left, and – dare I say – comfort. We’re all made of light and dark, good and bad. There’s a little gremlin in all of us. And so in that way, the night bus is an unlikely therapeutic space.
I hope you can come join Lady on the night bus this run. She’s going through a lot, guys! She could use a friend or two
Cheeky little brown is touring until 3 November.
For more information, dates and venue: https://www.tiatafahodzi.com/cheekylittlebrown
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