An eloquent and captivating piece of storytelling from writer-performer Inua Ellams, Black T-Shirt Collection meshes the personal and political within its narrative of the rise of two globetrotting Nigerian brothers through the world of fashion. Artistic Matthew and his foster brother Muhammed are contrasting personalities, but with a bond deeper than blood. Beginning by selling their T-Shirts to clubbers and street gangs they find their stock rising until scandal forces them to flee Nigeria for Cairo where their designs and their destiny really begin to take off.
In less capable hands parts of this story might have felt like a soap-box, but Ellams’ characters are finely wrought, conflicted and complex and – appropriately for a tale that circles the globe – transformed by their journey. It’s the changes the brothers go through; the sensitive artist drawn towards status whilst the party loving brother’s eyes are opened to issues of globalisation and poverty that make this piece so interesting as well as sowing the seeds of the inevitably tragic end. Undoubtedly a great deal of hard work went into this show, but Ellams comes across as a natural storyteller who has spun a dark morality tale for our times.