ANANSI: AN AFRICAN FAIRY TALE
by Lisa Cagnacci.
Southwark Playhouse corner of Tooley Street & Bermondsey Street SE1 2TF To 8 January 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 December.
Enjoyable storytime for everyone.
A pleasantly tropical show for a cold Christmas spell, Lisa Cagnacci’s Anansi takes the wily spider of African (and Caribbean) fame and, with the not merely very human, but highly sociable form of Anniwaa Buachie’s incarnation (no attempt at spider-like features, but a sense she’s one of the village with spiderish mental dexterity), creates a story based on the need for stories.
Surprisingly, Cagnacci doesn’t emphasise the point that in undertaking the three impossible-seeming tasks with which so many traditional folk heroes are burdened, in order here to fulfil the demands of sky-god Nyami (who has the all world’s stories locked away), Anansi creates her own narrative.
But Cagnacci follows the Anansi legend quite closely. Without stories life is boring and it’s hard to learn how more about life without their help. Nyami’s collection is a virtual BBC Charter, able to educate, inform and entertain. So, weary as the narrative-denied villagers are, it’s lucky they have such an enterprising spider to help out.
Climbing the rigging that backs Mike Lees’ colourfully practical set, she argues with the commanding tones Andy Serkis provided for the celestial deity. And while Anansi seeks to outwit a leopard, a horde of hornets and an invisible witch, her friend Akua has to find a suitable husband.
Vanessa Sampson makes clear Akua’s dilemma as Msimisi Affolderbach-Diamini transforms into seven varieties of unacceptable suitor, from the pallid to the super-confident, while the danger of easy attraction follows as Toussaint Meghie snakes his way dangerously round her affections. The complexity of life is brought home when her search ends with a very different snake.
Lynette Clarke contributes comic and serious moments, in a quick-moving, lively show that explores emotions and the inevitability of risk in life – without which there’d be few stories.
Cagnacci’s lively production moves swiftly and athletically. Her script generally tells its story well, though the language can fall flat in places. Such moments might be intended to give a sense of the everyday but act as a momentary drag on the dramatic energy which, overall, gives this likeable piece its energy and, naturally, narrative interest.
Anansi: Anniwaa Buachie.
Akua: Vanessa Sampson.
Mmoatia/Amma: Lynette Clarke.
Rock Python/7 Unsuitable Suitors: Msimisi Affolderbach-Diamini.
Vipro/Osebo: Toussaint Meghie.
Nyame, the Sky God (voice): Andy Serkis.
Director: Lisa Cagnacci.
Designer/Costume: Mike Lees.
Lighting: Rachel Walsh.
Sound: Sebastian Willan.
Composer: Timon Wapenaar.
Musical Director: Nathanh Palmer.
Movement: Tamsin Fessey.