COLOURFUL Culture with Gill Fisher
Friday, May 04, 2012 / [973 Reads] / Rated: Comment
Politics, corruption and acceptance. Kayode langours in his plush London flat surrounded by empty pizza boxes and torn posters from his failed political campaign. Having been dubbed a coconut by the black community his reputation lies in tatters strewn across the pages of twitter. In need of a holiday he returns Nigeria to recuperate only to be met with the same disapproval he faced in Britain. His English accent and westernised manners see him dismissed as a pretentious tourist, no good for anything except extorting money from. As Kayode’s eyes are opened to the reality of Nigeria’s fraudulent political system the prodigal son decides to run in the local election, putting forth an Obama inspired ‘Light up Nigeria’ campaign. But in a country where money and violence are the primary means of control, Kayode soon realises that in order to succeed he will have to play the game.
Award winning playwright Bola’s Agbaje new political drama reveals the fraudulent and highly venal nature of politics in both Western Europe and Western Africa whilst neatly exploring the complex issue of dual ethnicity. Kayode, played with tenacity and controlled energy by Lucian Msamati is too African to win the British vote but too ‘Hinglish’ to be accepted back into the country of his birth. Nigeria in 2012 is controlled through an infrastructure of bribery and physical force which is starkly represented by Chief Olowolaye. Richard Pepple plays this ostentatious business man as a conceited egomaniac, throwing down rolls of bank notes like cards on a casino table, he buys his leadership and anyone standing in his way will be crushed under his crocodile skin shoes. Despite the unjust nature of this setup, in Ijebu-Ode the Chief’s methods are accepted, even admired. His young protégé Kunle, played with optimistic vigour by Ashley Zhangaza, dreams of revolutionising Nigeria, but unlike westernised Kayode he understands that this can only be achieved through the existing systems.
Female roles in the production are incredibly strong; Kayode’s mother played by Pamela Nomvette is filled with hope for the future of her country. Punctuating her sentences with great sweeps of her arm and claps of her hands she is a proud matriarch. Her patriotism is shared by Jocelyn Jee Esien’s Fola, who’s convinced that Nigeria is on the cusp of being the next global superpower. Shimmying around the stage in her colourful outfits she expounds Nigeria’s superiority to England but appears to approve of the UK’s chocolate bar offerings. Rita is a fascinatingly developed character played with humour and restraint by Noma Dumezweni. Born on English soil she does not share her husband’s sense of displacement. Her London flat and handbag boutique are her world and despite Fola’s constant assertions that a black person can never be accepted in Britain, she is adamant and contented that this is where she belongs.
Agbaje’s play is a deeply profound and comprehensive dramatic work. Successfully representing different perspectives of the Nigerian Diaspora with sensitivity and intelligence the playwright lucidly demonstrates how a person’s race is much more than skin deep.
Showing at The Royal Court Theatre until the 26th May.
Tickets from £10.
Going on to show at The Bussey Building, Peckham from the 31st of May until the 28th of July.
Tickets £10 in advance or Pay What You Want on the door.
Friday, May 04, 2012 / [973 Reads] / Comment