Michaela Coel. Remember that name because she’s heading for great things. I was lucky enough to see her solo play Chewing Gum Dreams at London’s National Theatre last week and haven’t stopped talking about it since.
Written and performed by Coel, the 45-minute show covers everything from friendship and school to sex, periods and emergency contraception – all seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl.
Coel plays Tracey Gordon, a gobby inner-city teenager on the brink of adulthood. One moment she’s making fun of a timid girl in her class and cheeking her maths teacher, the next she’s having to cope with far more sinister concerns. It’s a mesmerising, funny, shocking and touching performance – all rolled into one.
Coel gives the role all she’s got, whether she’s a schoolgirl in a short skirt and blazer, messing about with her mates, running circles around the stage and dancing at a club, or fending off a lewd yob and showing an alarming lack of understanding of contraception.
Born in east London, Coel started working on Chewing Gum Dreams as a final-year Guildhall drama student and the show won her the Alfred Fagon award in 2012 for best new play by a writer of Caribbean or African descent. It’s playing at the National Theatre Shed until April 5. Catch it if you possibly can.