‘This is nice, innit? Yeah. Good little set-up to tell you the story of my name. The story of my true name.’
When a woman receives an unexpected letter from the British Passport Office, she is forced to confront an old mystery: why does her South African passport not carry her first name? Armed with the wisdom of favourite ’90s TV shows, she sets out on a journey that will take her back to the turmoil of Mobutu’s Congo, growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa, moving to Ireland, and finding love in a hostile England.
As her journey becomes inextricably linked with the tides of global history, how far will she go to unravel the truth? By turns wickedly funny and strikingly lyrical, Benedict Lombe’s Lava is an explosive debut play that will turn the way you see the world on its axis.
It premiered at the Bush Theatre, London, in July 2021, performed by Ronke Adékoluejo and directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike.
Lava was awarded the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2022. It also won Best Performance Piece at the 2022 Offies (Off West End Awards), and Benedict Lombe won the Book and Lyrics Recognition Award at the 2021 Black British Theatre Awards.
‘A monologue about diaspora, identity and belonging, [Lava] seethes with rage and pain, and glows with joy, a celebration of black strength and excellence, as much as an unflinching social and historical reckoning. Lombe’s writing has a sinewy poeticism and warm, effortless wit… A legacy of trauma — slavery, colonial exploitation, apartheid — collides with intimate personal experience, producing a narrative of volcanic force… the play is always pulsingly impassioned. Brilliant, blistering theatre’
— The Times
‘A captivating, continent-spanning one-woman show… Benedict Lombe’s passionate memoir-monologue that weaves lyrical storytelling with untiring protest… encompass[es] light comedy with heavy truths’
‘[A] wry, magnetic and urgent study of black identity and displacement. This autobiographical show about a woman’s journey from Congo to the UK feels shamingly timely’
— Evening Standard
‘[A] red-hot eruption of a monologue’
— Time Out
‘Lava is more than a play, more than a compelling spoken word piece; it’s Benedict Lombe’s unfiltered, loud, angry, joyful, unapologetically black female expression – all wrapped up in a narrative that runs parallel to the history of the western world’
— Afridiziak Theatre News
Best Performance Piece – Offies (Off West End Awards)
Susan Smith Blackburn Prize