Lemn Sissay is really funny. Even when talking about difficult subjects. Like being adopted, rejected by his foster family, and embarking out to find family and his place in the world. The man can tell a tale, and does so brilliantly in his reading of his one man show Something Dark.
Although this show at The Marlowe‘s Studio is ‘just’ a reading, not a performance – the stage lights are up, there’s no scenery – it’s engaging, atmospheric and compelling. Honest and compassionate, he reveals his soul, and in the process, reveals some of the truths about family.
For, as he explains, family is a collection of people sharing disputed memories, all confirming that one another exists. Lemn didn’t have that, and in the play explores the themes of identity and self that arose as a result. We hear stories from his early days in Lancashire, before visiting the bright lights of big city Manchester. He tells us of his social workers and carers, one of whom named him Norman. We are there for the first meeting with his mother. There may be just one man on stage, but we’re privy to voices and stories of the people in the cities, care homes and communities that Lemn grew up in.
Something Dark was published by Oberon Books in September 2017, was adapted for BBC radio in 2005, and has been performed around the world. Lemn is the current Canterbury Poet Laureate, and involved in creativity and community ventures in the city. Canterbury will be hosting a Christmas Dinner for care leavers this year.