BWW Review: COAT, Brighthelm Centre
Yomi Sode is a writer and performer, born in Nigeria but who's lived in Britain most of his life. He strives to balance the cultures of his two "homes", and his one-man show aims to explore the tension of being authentic to your roots in another culture.
Sode plays Junior and the piece starts in his kitchen where he is (in real time) preparing a stew onstage for his mother, who is coming round to visit to share her life story following his gran's passing.
It's based on a real meal he cooked for her, and the smells coming from the stage are most inviting - and it's a pleasant surprise to find a free recipe card and seasoning on the seats for the audience to take away.
Sode articulately and passionately recalls how his mother planned to leave his father in Nigeria and how they adapted to life in Peckham, covering school bullying, peer pressure in his teenage years and generally struggling to fit in, both in the UK and in Nigeria when he returns to visit family there.
He flips between playing Junior, his family members and peers with ease, and uses clear (and occasionally humorous) mannerisms to distinguish between the characters.
Direction from Thierry Lawson, paired with John Berkavitch and Sia Gbamoi's choreography, has Sode making full use of the stage, and simple movement of certain scenery and props is used to imply flashbacks and so on.
Effective lighting in different hues is used to transport us away from the flat kitchen to other locations, such as his school and his gran's house in Nigeria.
Sode shared in the post-show Q&A that the name, COAT (Confessions of a Teenager), came from the analogy of the layers we put on or pull off in order to fit into the culture that we find ourselves in.
It is for young first- and latter-generation immigrants, and also for older generations who have forgotten that their offspring cannot mirror their heritage if they come from a country they have barely (or never) visited.
COAT is a charming peek into a life where, ultimately, food and love are overflowing.
COAT played at Brighthelm Centre