Written and directed by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, and produced by Play Back Drama, the 2-time Off West End Theatre Award (The Offies) nominated ‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’ is the latest must-see theatre piece.
Described by critics as “nothing short of a modern masterpiece”, “a captivating storyline with brilliantly realised, often hilarious, interpretations”, and “a remarkable animated and innovative play, ” the piece is named after Tristan’s favourite song, and one of the biggest UK Garage records of the ‘90s, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy.’ First created as Tristan’s final year piece at Roehampton University, before being further developed via scratches at The Kiln, Rich Mix, and Cockpit, before its 5-star rated run at the Jack Studio Theatre, we recently caught up with Tristan to find out more about the man behind the piece. See what went down below:
So let’s start on the title “Sweet like chocolate boy”. What is it about the title of a 90’s record you like so much?
Honestly, it reminds me of the times when I was 6 and the excitement of going to new estates because I honestly thought they were like castles. So that’s the nostalgic reason. But being almost 25 now, it is listening to the lyrics feeling they spoke to me as a black person in a multitude of ways. 1. We are saucy. 2
My blackness is both unique, ever-changing and beautiful 3. This is how the oppressive powers-that-be view us. We are a delicacy to them. They don’t hate us, they want to devour us.
You grew up in the ’90s, what is it about your upbringing and surroundings that inspired you to write “sweet like chocolate boy”
I feel that I am now coming into truly appreciating the multitude of black British culture that has grown around me. Music, Food, Fashion, Language. I want to make sure that – in my lifetime – I wrote a piece that was dedicated to that. I also feel the 90s is a decade widely enjoyed but seldom explored so wanted to delve into that more. Lastly, I wanted to the people of the estate – which includes neeky little Cartoon-Network mad me – a voice that was infused with all the joy we experience as well as our troubles. We are multi-layered, intercultural treasures that are to be cherished (but not devoured or diluted).
You studied at Roehampton University where you first wrote the script for your final piece. What is it that led you to take a degree in English and drama? And what would you say to the people considering what they are going to do at university?
I studied English & Drama because I made a decision to further my knowledge in both areas as much as possible. I knew that was where my future career lay. Playwriting wise, I wanted to ensure I understood the mechanics of words from the supposed greats and how to make them bang as a Director. To all who consider, I was very sure of what I wanted to do BUT IT IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT. As far as I am concerned University is best for those who can already identify themselves as intrapersonal and audio learners PLUS already have a desire to speak on a critical, academically articulate, intellectual level. And with all those words, that does not make you better than anyone else – cos there is an argument that you can just go to talks & the library more often. Unless your a doctor, lawyer or teacher (even then) do not go to university to solely secure yourself your dream job. Go there for the access to be more widely read and delve into semantics of your craft OF YOUR OWN FREE WILL. The debt is not a joke and mental health pressures of keeping up with joneses can be a lot.
How do you feel the show has been received so far? Did you have any expectations and have you met them so far?
The show has been very well received. Many laugh, holler and cry. Some see it and need a few days to digest and enter into new conversations with it – which I love too. My biggest thing was making sure it reaches as many people as possible and start as many convos as possible about culture, revolution and what is the right act in this politically charged times we have (and still do) live in. I know my play does that.
What message do you hope to convey and what can the audience expect?
When you see this play, get ready to say ” I remember that tune!” Get ready to 2-step in your seat whilst watching poetic, physical storytelling coming at ya at blistering speeds.
The message I want to convey is: Look at the multiplicity of us. We are the seasoning & the sauce. And we have had it, hard man. But let’s not forget what we created. And when we remember, lets treasure and start conversations how we keep ourselves sane whilst trying to rebuke centring our lives on eurocentric oppression in the meantime.
Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration through your journey and why?
Well, I ain’t leaving here without saying Nyame (God), My Mum and my Dad for constantly telling me I have the ability to reach higher.
Specifically, on an artistic level, I would say is fellow Ghanaian Michaela Coel. Her journey writing the incredible play Chewing Gum Dreams – based on her archiving the transformative power of her schoolyard days – as unapologetic bold and tender. Furthermore, she took that everywhere to the point it became a TV series. Her work crosses form & place. I need to do that too.
And finally, what can we expect next from you?
I’m still writing, got a couple of new plays cooking. In terms of directing, I recently won this year’s JMK award and will be directing the G.O.A.T – Arinzé Kene’s – seminal piece Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre. And tickets for that are out now!
Check out Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu’s Award-nominated “Sweet Like Chocolate Boy” piece as it hits Theatre Peckham, London this Saturday. Pick up your tickets here.