by Sally Woodcock.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 26 November 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 November.
Mixed success with orange, milk and getting-to-know-you in Africa.
Despite product placement having reached the title, there’s no sponsorship for Sally Woodcock’s new play. Hardly surprising, seeing that Fanta’s described as sugar plus E-numbers. But, it’s immensely popular among Kenyan orphans, many with mothers dead from AIDS, the disease behind Woodcock’s story.
Though the rolling, arid plains behind the veranda of Alex Marker’s Finborough set suggest an African immensity, Woodcock focuses on three people. How third-generation White farmer Roger meets White soil specialist Ronnie isn’t clear, as the play opens with their pre-sexual banter. His Black housegirl Regina (Ronnie and Regina: they sound like East African all-girl gang bosses) had been raped by British soldiers. She left the resulting baby in her village where she was castigated and threatened. Roger rescued her and she’s now having his child.
As, soon, is Ronnie. Neither script nor production finally places her; new, naïve about Africa, immensely rich, very highly educated, financially acute (she removes Roger’s other debts by surreptitiously acquiring his land), she hangs around waiting to marry him, despite the draining away of love.
In one of the strongest moments, Roger moves to kiss her but walks past her, kisses Regina instead – though the final identity of his real love, that’s been emotionally crippling him, is only identified at the end. Regina, who tactfully guides the audience through events, for a reason that becomes increasingly apparent, has a forceful dignity in Kehinde Fadipe’s performance.
Always evident, even when silent, her dignity’s never more apparent than in a moment of potential embarrassment, as, displaced by Ronnie, she brings the morning tea-tray to a bedroom with no spare surface. The others, naked in bed, are ashamed to reveal themselves, so – to Roger’s anger – Regina puts the tray on the floor, carefully folds Ronnie’s clothing, putting them on the bed, and places the tea on a now vacant table.
Her authority’s apparent in the language, as the only character not afflicted by bouts of stuttering uncertainty, with near-Tourette level of ‘Yes/No’ alternations. Jay Villiers and Jessica Ellerby offer terminal uncertainty and shallow over-confidence sickening to distracted grief in Gareth Minchin’s production.
Regina: Kehinde Fadipe.
Ronnie: Jessica Ellerby.
Roger: Jay Villiers.
Director: Gareth Machin.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Neill Brinkworth.
Sound: Tom Gibbon.
Kay Welch: Dialect coach.
Assistant director: Ola Ince.