BOI BOI IS DEAD
by Zodwa Nyoni.
Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ To 28 March 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 March.
Family secrets brought out in the open.
It’s easy to understand why West Yorkshire Playhouse, where it opened in February, should have staged Leeds author Zodwa Nyoni’s new play. Way down the road – 160 miles of the M1 – Watford Palace has done well to become involved in presenting Lucian Msamati’s production.
A lot in Nyoni’s subject and manner are familiar dramatic territory. Following the title character’s death his family assemble, bringing clashes between those who’d lived with him, and those who’d removed themselves and now return. Nyoni’s evolving story focuses variously on conflicts within the dead man’s generation and those concerning the younger adults who look to their futures.
Tensions lead to revelations, politeness falls away and blunt truths are spoken, a vital, plot-diverting secret is exposed. The deceased becomes a living part of the lives around him, as Jack Benjamin’s Boi Boi, jazz trumpet in hand, is silhouetted or walks the stage, listening, on occasions responding, but always detached.
In past times, this would have been realistically handled with characters arriving for the funeral, gradually being unwrapped like pass-the-parcel objects for the audience, with, perhaps, a gap for the interment.
What’s different here is that events in Msamati’s powerful production for African-British company Tiata Fahodzi happen in the open-air, with the hot desert eventually shading into a place of domestic lights, and bin-bags finally accumulating like a lifetime’s refuse.
For this is rural Africa and there’s an insubstantiality to the physical setting – telegraph poles and other objects fly in and out in flimsily two-dimensional forms – reflecting the clashing personalities, Andrew French’s Ezra expecting respect from the young, Joseph Adelakun’s rebellious young Petu refusing it before being cornered by his own waywardness.
Centrally there’s the argument between Angela Wynter’s Miriam, her steadfastness knocked when her secret’s revealed, and Lynette Clarke’s glamorously showy Stella who returns to an old rivalry of clashing personalities. As the youngster whose future others want to decide for her, Debbie Korley’s Una moves from compliance to finding her own very definite voice in confident song, showing her musical inheritance in a point of stillness as the story snakes its way round the family.
Petu: Joseph Adelakun.
Boi Boi: Jack Benjamin.
Stella: Lynette Clarke.
Ezra: Andrew French.
Una: Debbie Korley.
Miriam: Angela Wynter.
Director: Lusian Msamati.
Designer: Francisco Rodriguez-Weil.
Lighting: Emma Chapman.
Sound: Simon McCorry.
Composer/Musical Director: Michael Henry.
Movement: Cioral Messam.
Dramaturg: Alex Chisholm.
Assistant director: Tyrrell Jones.