Zadie Smith's White Teeth Comes To The Stage In Its Native Kilburn

White Teeth, Kiln Theatre ★★★★☆

Zadie Smith's White Teeth Comes To The Stage In Its Native Kilburn White Teeth, Kiln Theatre 4
White Teeth at Kiln Theatre
Photo: Mark Douet

The Kiln (formerly the Tricycle) Theatre reopened in September after a two-year, £7 million facelift. It's a genuine improvement of the venue despite the negativity of a local campaign against the change of name. White Teeth — adapted by Stephen Sharkey from Zadie Smith’s bestselling novel of the same name — would have been the ideal first show as it celebrates the multicultural diversity of the theatre’s own neighbourhood, Kilburn

Smith’s sprawling comic epic of time-shifting, overlapping narratives is nigh impossible to reproduce on stage, but Sharkey faithfully conveys its freewheeling exuberance in a story that has its roots in NW6 but spins off to examine post-war British identity.

White Teeth at Kiln Theatre
Photo: Mark Douet

The pregnant Rosie is taken on a magical realist journey into her past to find out the truth of her “complicated” family origins, which turn out to include Jamaican, Bengali and Irish antecedents. In this post-colonial melting pot, racism and militant Islamism rear their ugly heads, but a capacity for personal renewal and hope for the future shines through.

Backed by a live three-piece band, there are plenty of colourful song and dance sequences that almost turn the play into a musical. Paul Englishby’s eclectic score includes reggae and hip-hop, while Polly Bennett’s lively choreography evokes the chaotic energy of this mixed community. Director Indhu Rubasingham keeps the action flowing on Tom Piper’s flexible set that depicts a receding Kilburn High Road.

White Teeth at Kiln Theatre
Photo: Mark Douet

Amanda Wilkin plays Rosie searching for meaning in her life, in a loving but strained relationship with her mother Irie (an amusingly feisty Ayesha Antoine). Assad Zaman is the mercurial rebel Millat, with Tony Jayawardena as his comically patriarchal father Samad. And Michele Austin gives a delightfully eccentric performance as bag lady cum shaman Mad Mary, “Queen of the High Road”.

White Teeth, Kiln Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR. Tickets £10–£32.50, until 22 December 2018.

Last Updated 07 November 2018