BWW Review: HOARD, Arcola Theatre
Bili (Kemi Durosinmi) is introducing her boyfriend Brian (Tyler Fayose) to her sisters Rafi (Elizabeth Ita) and Ami (played by Estella Daniels on book due to Emmanuella Cole's being ill on press night). When their mother Wura (Ellen Thomas) decides to crash their dinner party unannounced, the reason why she's unaware of Brian's involvement with her daughter comes to the surface and unearths a series of deep-rooted family issues.
Journalist Bim Adewunmi premieres her debut play Hoard, initially commissioned by BBC Arts as part of a project inviting writers from other genres to write for the stage. Directed by Femi Elufowoju jr, the piece presents a candid account of how unresolved matters fester and hold the power to destroy the tightest of bonds. The Nigerian family unpack their concerns and address it unceremoniously through Adewunmi's quick script.
She uses humour effectively and adopts pregnant pauses that finely let on secrets and repressed arguments. The direction is, however, slightly questionable at times, with Elufowoju jr's opting for unnatural blocking and forced meanderings. He opts to relegate single actors to the downstage corners, buried into the audience. This leads the focus to the remaining performers but turns into a strained result, as the movement is seemingly random and entirely unneeded especially when the characters are still talking to each other.
Besides this trivial, debatable element in the positioning, he whips the show with tight pace that works wonders with the punchy text. Even with Daniels holding the script, the cast is a burst of chemistry. Durosinmi, Ita, and Daniels are enthralling as the three sisters: close-knit and supportive of each other, they're unafraid of confronting one another but, at the same time, become a unit when it comes to defending (and criticising) their own family.
Thomas is a force of nature as the flawed matriarch. Unwilling to budge, she stands tall in the face of her daughters' accusations and is unyielding in her ways. A dignified woman, she's secure in her identity and proud of her heritage. Fayose is effortlessly funny as Brian, who's banished to the kitchen while the four women discuss their internal disputes.
As a first play, Hoard displays all the fundamental aspects that announce Adewunmi as a refreshing and engaging new presence on the theatre scene.
Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli