An evening on the sofa: DONUTS by Extended Play

Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
February 9, 2022

Choreographer Jamaal Burkmar (with producer Treacle Holasz, co-creator of Extended Play) freely admits that while DONUTS is based on him and his friends growing up, and their love of music, it also owes much to particular classic television sitcoms of the 1990s and 2000s.

Set on and around a sofa, it focuses on three close friends, happy in each other’s easy-going company. You can imagine they thought things would always be like that. But everything is turned upside-down when one decides to leave and gets a ticket which the others discover by accident. Just like a lot of sitcom episodes, everything is resolved and things go back to how they were, in this case when she returns.

DONUTS certainly has a homely Friends or Seinfeld sort of feel about it. It even has the usual stock in trade characters. Iolanda Portogallo steals the show as the jokey, lively, playful one. Her personality shines through. She has a particularly expressive face and also seems most at home with the hip-hop elements in Burkmar’s choreography. It’s also her who tries to perk up the quiet moody one (Maya Carroll) who seems especially hard it by the departure of the one who left (Dorna Ashory).

Extended Play in DONUTS
Photo Genevieve Reeves

The opening introduces us to the threesome, although personalities do take a while to emerge. Narrative takes a back seat. We are told they are getting ready for a night out, although there’s not that much sign of it. What there is, however, a plenty of dynamic and appealing dance to the playful jazz and funk of composer, DJ and producer Jameszoo. Indeed, the music is central to the piece. It’s an important part of what cements it together.

The story takes off when that ticket appears, is hidden and then discovered. One of the other friends seems to take it as a personal betrayal, while the more easy-going one is sanguine about it. The music so often seems to match perfectly the onstage mood. Here, discordance neatly echoes the breakdown in relationships.

It’s one of the strongest parts of the show. The gesture in Burkmar’s choreography and that’s always slipped in without feeling forced, leads to you to imagine what is being said. At other times the dance flows as easily as water from a tap, sharp articulations sitting contentedly alongside free turns, individuality mixing happily with unison. The sense of emptiness when just two are left is quite palpable. But don’t worry. Like most sitcom episodes, it does all end happily.

DONUTS is an evening out, but with an evening in feel. It’s cosy and comfortable. It makes you laugh but makes you feel too. It might make you think about your own friendships and experiences but equally it’s OK just to watch it for humour, the dance and the excellent performances from Carroll, Portogallo and Wright.

And why DONUTS? You will have to go. All is revealed at the end.

DONUTS continues on tour, next to The Lowry, Salford and The Place London. Visit for all dates and venues.