Dreaming Whilst Black | Review of BBC Three's latest comedy pilot © Big Deal Films
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Dreaming Whilst Black

Review of BBC Three's latest comedy pilot

The BBC’s iPlayer blurb for Dreaming Whilst Black manages not to mention the entire reason the show exists – or what makes it so funny.

It’s pitched as the story of an aspiring film-maker whose dreams of making it into the business are nobbled by the demands of his unrewarding day job in recruitment.

But this narrow plot driver is one of the least interesting aspects of the BBC Three pilot, which primarily offers a wearily wry commentary on the sort of clumsy racist encounters its creator and star, Adjani Salmon, experiences every day.

These perfectly observed scenes include a prissily passive-aggressive colleague (Meghan Treadway) singling him out for a complaint about his lunch, to another white co-worker, Adam (The Pin's Alexander Owen) awkwardly seeing him as a gateway to some sort of exotic black experience, which culminates in a horrifically embarrassing karaoke session.

This all comes from the familiar comedy of cringe, but the scenes are played for slightly broader gags than you might expect – and without the bitterness he could be forgiven for. Instead,  mocking laughter proves the perfect, delayed revenge for every racial slight.

Salmon, who first made Dreaming Whilst Black as a web series, has a keen eye and ear for a gag, from an early scene going through the CV of a recruitment client (Will Hislop) that’s full of punchlines, to an excellent moment of slapstick that comes just before a satisfying final moment of zen.

Kwabena himself is slightly hapless, not just in being caught between the two masters of following his passion and paying the rent. When he catches the eye of an attractive girl, for example, he can literally only imagine how he might sweep her off her feet.

The character’s plight offers a sardonic commentary on the elitist world of film-making, especially when he overhears an hilarious pitch from a privileged white guy, whose idea isn’t quite as deeply personal as he tells the would-be backers.

Whether he has the courage and commitment to try to break into the necessarily competitive world of films will only be determined if the BBC picks up this show, to series. Until then, we should be thankful that Salmon himself did stay on that same rocky path to produce this…

• Dreaming Whilst Black was released on iPlayer today.

Review date: 19 Apr 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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