by Yunior Garcia Aguilera, Rotimi Babatunde, Marcos Barbosa, Tanya Barfield, Gbolahan Obisesan.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 2 March 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 6, 13 Feb 2.30pm.
Audio-described 21 Feb.
Captioned 18 Feb.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 February.
The whole as more than the sum of the parts.
This show is part of a multi-theatre programme called World Stages London, celebrating cultural influences meeting in the city. It’s finished-up at the Young Vic, but started out with hefty Royal Court Theatre involvement. And if it’s anything to measure the whole programme by, it’s to be hoped the project overall won’t be the “once in a lifetime” event the programme calls it.
Feast places individual stories within a celebration of Yoruba culture which starts predictably, and colourfully, with Nigerian dance and introduces Yoruba mythology. But the several-authored script has its feet on the ground. Several grounds, for while it covers three centuries overall, the focus is on the later part of the period, and the countries where slavery has spread the original culture.
So when the feast finally arrives, it takes place in Cuba, Brazil, New York and London. By when, moments of cultural conflict have been expressed through realistic drama along with some startlingly skilful dance and music episodes. Scenes contrast the sustained quiet of a White slave-owner banishing his Black wet-nurse because slavery’s abolished and he can’t trust having ex-slaves within firing distance, and the Cuban prostitute saving up for a better home, facing a White man who refuses to believe she has no power of divination.
Then there’s the Black British athlete who sees off a gang of her male contemporaries when they accuse her of selling-out to the Imperialists, a scene with a humour the show picks-up in a reference to Nigerian internet scamming.
But, like a magician who explains a trick then trumps the explanation, as if by magic Rufus Norris’s fluent production, with its use of screens and projections for sometimes playful transformations, comes to reflect Yoruba supernatural belief through sheer theatrical skill.
By the end of all the separate contributions the outcast culture has acquired a wider prestige. Which is what the separate dramatic episodes acquire through being interweaved within an overall theatrical pulse, and through performance by a company expert in acting (it includes several leading Black British performers), dance and music, turning the dramatic snacks into a theatrical banquet.
Oshun: Naana Agyei-Ampadu.
Drumming Esu: slo Akingbola.
Oya: Michelle Asante.
White Man: Daniel Cerqueira.
Guitars: Laurence Corns.
Yemaya: Noma Dumezweni.
Dancing Oshun: Yanet Fuentes Torres.
Singing Exu: Michael Henry.
Elegba: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
Papa Elegba: Louis Mahoney.
Dancing Oya: Coral Messam.
Dahncing elegbara: Ira Mandela Siobhan.
Dancing Elegua: Alexander Varona.
Director: Rufus Norris.
Designer: Katrina Lindsay.
Lighting: Paule Constable.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Musical Arrangements: Sola Akingbola, Michael Henry.
Musical Director: Michael Henry.
Video: Lysander Ashton for 59 Productions.
Choreographer: George Cespedes.
Dialect: Neil Swain.
Assistant director: Laura Keefe.