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  • Miles Hedley


It’s a sad fact that we don’t tell loved ones often enough just how much we love them. It’s another sad fact that that failure can evolve into haunting regret after they die. So why not have our funerals while we’re still alive so that we can bask in the tributes of our nearest and dearest?

It’s a neat idea – and it’s one that’s developed with style, skill and wit by poet Jeremiah SugarJ Brown in Likkle Rum With Grandma, currently enjoying a sell-out run at the Albany.

Brown, who also wrote the piece, mixes his take on what it is to be British and black with taped soundbites of his nan reflecting on 50 years of living in London after she left Jamaica with her three small children - only to see her husband gamble away all their money and do a runner.

Despite being racked by homesickness, she determined to do the best she could for her family. And her indomitable spirit laid the foundations of the sort of life her descendants are able to have today.

Food and rum became the metaphors for her love. Brown recalls how she used to rub rum into his chest as a child when he was sick, how she still bakes amazing fruit cakes steeped in it, how her succulent homemade dumplings are fried till their edges are as golden as her heart.

And in a brilliantly simple and emotional denouement, the final words of the work are given to her as she speaks the old-age, age-old mantra that we can all identify with: Come and see me from time to time. Surprise me. That’s all I need.

Likkle Rum With Grandma, directed by dramaturg Myah Jeffers, is sad, funny, tender and, most of all, replete with universal truths about the human condition. It is also Brown’s first-ever solo stage show - and it was as assured a debut as I have seen. I reckon we’re going to hear a lot more of him in the future.

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