They say home is where the heart is, but where is home? Is it where you were born? Is it a place you build up an affinity with? Is home a state of mind? Being plucked out of your comfort zone, and having to assimilate to a completely different way of life has to be one of the most challenging experiences we as humans can go through, however many do it. Letters to CentreStage‘s Olu places this phenomena under the microscope, and starts up a very intruiging conversation on a multitude of themes.
Greeted by the hustle and bustle of a lively Nigerian market, street vendors, passers by and the show’s protagonists successfully remind the audience that they have left the cold climes of the UK behind and have now, for the next 90 minutes ventured into sunnier and vibrant climes of Nigeria. Plucked out of her comfort zone in the UK due to her parent’s feeling that she lacks discipline and respect, Olu finds herself having to assimilate to a new way of life.
Ese Ighorae‘s Olu humorously revels in her dry wit, offering a beautiful contrast to the grandiosity of her father’s (Benjamin Sarong-Broni) statements, but equally as humorous. The first 30 mins of the piece are reminiscent of Meera Syal’s semi-autobiographical ‘Anita & Me’, which is very endearing. Here is a young female, fiery, strong willed and on the tight rope between 2 very different cultures. Olu’s monologues are a great tool to connect with the audience, her monologues the voice to many Nigerians of the diaspora and also young teens and I can’t help but wish that this be a continuation throughout the narrative.
Otega Ighorae‘s Ade, the loveable class clown at Olu’s new boarding school is fun and restores faith in the kindness of others. What transpires throughout the evening is sheer amount of inequality no matter where you look, whether it be between classmates, or individuals higher up in the system. This is what Olu manages to unmask well. the evening is brimming with themes that on their own could spark a conversation, from the concept of belonging, identity, the feeling of being the ‘other’ to corruption, relationships and family. Ese is to be commended for writing a subtly political piece; it doesn’t preach, rather it places the everyday under the spotlight to showcase societal ills.
Ese’s script is cleverly complied of a mixture of pigeon English and lyrical verses. This shows Ese’s abilty to play with writing styles, however some scenes feel longer than necessary. Joss Lacey directs a considered, unstereotypical piece. All I ask for is for more in terms of vitality snd stakes. Jessica Andrade fuses the evening with her playful movement choreography. The cast crawling, crouching, gathering as one to become the unforgiving forest of Olu’s travels to receive water for her dorm mates.
Olu‘s ending ties the evening together, reminding everyone of why they are there watching the piece in the first place. Olu is a powerful piece in the making, with a promising narrative that just needs fine tuning. This show is a great gateway to learning about an alternative representation of Nigeria, and there is a greater need for stories like this.
Review writtten by Lucy Basaba.
Olu was shown at the Pleasance Theatre on Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th June. For more information on Letters to Centrestage, visit here…