She Is A Place Called Home, Vault Festival

A strong debut from writer Esohe Uwadiae which has it roots in Nigerian customs but is a universal story about love, family and rejection.

Two sisters, nameless to the audience, are arguing and practicing a dance. Their father is marrying again, whilst remaining married to his first wife, their mother. Their mother has fled in shame and the daughters are left to fend for themselves; no longer supported by their father who is distracted by his pregnant wife to be but also no longer sheltered and suffocated by him too.

Sister 1 (Jordan Noel) shows promise after graduation with plans to study a Masters and Sister 2 (Nicole Acquah) trying to keep their household together whilst managing her job and her sister, who has relapsed into the anorexia that nearly killed her. Both performers are convincing and moving in their roles as the sisters approach their change of lifestyle with varying emotions,

She is a Place Called Home is whirlwind of issues from being a black woman dealing with dating, high expectations of education and juggling British culture with their Nigerian heritage. There is a strong focus on success or at least the appearance of success; financial, educational and in their father’s case his clear longing for a son which makes him feel/seem like a failure. It isn’t a flattering portrait of Nigerian culture, with bridal prices and polygamy feeling almost prehistoric but Uwadiae avoids judgement.

As a production Layla Madanat’s direction embraces the claustrophobia of the sisters relationship, there is a particularly moving scene where we hear the parents fighting, a glimpse into the outside world that they are trying to protect themselves from. The play is supporting Women’s Aid charity Solace and plays working with charities can often have a clumsy message Uwadiae uses the two sisters to depict many sides of their father; tyrannical and spiteful in one monologue but playful and generous in another. There was an almost Harvey Weinstein quality the character; a strong and powerful man that will inevitably see his commupance.

It is great to see a strong black voice present a universal story. I look forward to seeing more from these young female creatives.

She is a Place Called Home is on until 8 March

You can read my interview with writer Esohe Uwadiae here

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