A sizzling look at differing cultures
Palm Wine & Stout, by Segun Lee-French, Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, October 2 and touring the region until October 30.
This piece of semi-autobiographical culture clash drama is the result of a collaboration between Eastern Angles and the Nottingham Theatre Writing Partnership and is designed to mark Black History Month.
Taiye, a young man with a white British mother and a black Nigerian father, sets off to visit the country where he was conceived out of wedlock and meet the family - and particularly the father, Abraham - he has never known.
He is haunted by the restless spirit of his dead twin brother – compelling him to make the journey to enable him to find eternal peace.
Fresh from London, Taiye and his mother find themselves in an Africa of street crime, bribery, noise, suspicion, greed, lust and jealousy. Just like home, then, although London seems a far safer place as the two are told to keep their heads down and stay inside the dwelling of their hosts.
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Eventually Taiye gets to meet Abraham (and his two wives) while the attraction between his parents is rekindled and family tensions revealed.
While the truth is that I failed to become fully engaged by the story, the four actors were terrific - individually and as a team - and this production fairly sizzled with energy and ideas.
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Joe Jacobs as Taiye, the innocent abroad, gave a sparkling, assured performance and also displayed a fantastic singing voice. Zachary Momoh as his younger brother, Femi, was superb, creating a character both streetwise and vulnerable.
Antoinette Marie Tagoe as Stella, Abraham’s wife, proud but grasping, was full of energy and attack, an artful, very watchable actor, while Helen Grady provided the perfect, understated contrast as Jane, Taiye’s mum - nervous, diffident but ultimately practical.
While developed as a collaboration, this production has the trademark of Eastern Angles all over it. The actors effortlessly double up as other characters, including ghostly apparitions from both cultures, and imaginatively convert props into other uses; suitcases at various times become vehicles, chairs and a bed. A simple set is backed by a screen used for shadow work while the cast change costume in view of the audience.
The rhythms and sounds of Africa - created by the actors via drums, rattles and voices - enrich the performance and this high quality production, directed by Ivan Cutting and Kate Chapman, is a visual and vocal treat.