Review: MY FATHER'S FABLE, Bush Theatre

Tense new thriller about grief, identity and family secrets that keeps the audience guessing

By: Jun. 25, 2024
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Review: MY FATHER'S FABLE, Bush Theatre
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My Father's FableIf you're after tension, you'll find it aplenty in Faith Omole's new play at the Bush Theatre.

Omole, a writer (winner of the 2023 Alfred Fagon Award for Kaleidoscope) and actor (Standing at the Sky's Edge, We Are Lady Parts), gives us a comic thriller that ramps up the tension and keeps the audience guessing.

After her father's death, Peace (Tiwa Lade) discovers her half-brother, Bolu, who suddenly flies from Nigeria to England. Grieving for her father and confused about why he never mentioned Bolu (played engagingly by Theo Ogundipe), Peace grapples with questions of identity, diaspora, Empire and the past.

At the same time, Bolu struggles to work out more about Peace's life as the only black teacher in a privileged, private school and her on-off relationship with Roy. He's annoyed she knows nothing of her motherland and is rootless. "Your mother tongue is confused in your mouth, your heritage is hidden and your bedtime stories are anecdotes to make sure you behave.".

My Father's Fable
Theo Ogundipe as Bolu and Tiwa Lade as Peace in My Father’s Fable
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Rakie Ayola's excellent as Favour, Peace's over-protective mother. She moves into the house Peace shares with her long-suffering Caribbean boyfriend Roy (an amiable Gabriel Akuwudike) to stop Bolu (a journalist and essay writer) getting close to her daughter. And Roy has his own news to impart. News that Favour will not find favourable.

Superb music by Ayanna Witter-Johnson sets the scene and helps move the plot along, with evocative African drums and singers lending a mix of dream-like and formidable tones to proceedings.

Rebekah Murrell's production underlines the mysteries (is Bolu trying to steal money, is Favour hiding something and why is Peace frightened to discover more of the world?) with flashing lights and piercing sounds between scenes.

Roy and Peace's middle-class home by designer TK Hay – fashionable blue sofa, grey kitchen units, on-trend swan neck tap and wooden flooring – spells normal. But it's hiding unspoken layers of grief, pain and sadness.

The voice of Peace's father (articulated by Babaibeji, who's also the Yoruba consultant for the play) punctuates the air with warnings. "It is coming. Don't you see? It cannot be stopped now."

Stand-out star of the show is Rakie Ayola as powerful Favour, who holds the stage commandingly. Although, I would have liked to see more nuance in her character, so we feel sympathy for her as well as deriding her manipulative tendencies (there were loud gasps and general disapproval from the audience, which was marvellous to witness).

Theo Ogundipe should also be commended for his ever-changing Bolu, who's charming and appealing one minute, then frustrated and angry the next. He portrays the real face of Africa and not the image of an African from a supposed poor country who's longing to have a better life in England. "Because the unspoken rule is that you are a better African if you manage to get out of Africa.".

There is much to like in this new play, but I'm not convinced about some of Murrell's directorial decisions. The action takes place on a thrust stage, which can create intimacy with the audience. But all too often, the characters have their backs to us in crucial scenes when we should see their reactions.

Also, a key scene was cut from the beginning of Act 2, which explains a lot about Peace's timid behaviour and why she refuses to fly in airplanes. Perhaps a truncated version of this could be woven in somewhere.

However, the joy of small venues like the Bush Theatre, which is particularly known for championing new writers and new plays, is that there is time to workshop more during the run. Wrinkles can be ironed out, resulting in successful transfers to the West End, like Tyrell Williams' Red Pitch recently relocating from the Bush Theatre to @sohoplace.

The tension is palpable whether more audiences will one day see My Father's Fable in a larger venue. Let's hope so, as Omole is a talent to be reckoned with, telling stories we all need to hear.

My Father's Fable runs at the Bush Theatre until July 27.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan




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