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Untilted By Inua Ellams – (Theatre Review)

Inua EllamsThe Soho Theatre has been transformed into a mini-forest and its floor dressed with dry leaves. No, don’t go back, you are in the right theatre and the stage is set for Inua Ellams’ new play, Untitled, his second one-man theatre production.

A poetic and magical story set in Nigeria, Untitled explores the intrinsic relationship of Nigeria to its citizens both in the motherland and in the Diaspora. It is a story of destiny, choices and consequences, and our life’s trajectory being determined by our names. And so, we meet X, a nameless boy, whose cry at his naming ceremony means he has rejected his name. This means he is going to be a man with no destiny and will be disconnected from the rest of society. A point Ellams helps us to understand with his use of a free flowing narrative and  body language/actions on stage which helps us to see a boy who grows up into a man that runs free and wild in the local village and is a law to himself with no regard for the laws of the land.  Ellams press release mentions the play is to coincide with Nigeria’s 50 years of independence, what an ironic representation the young man gives us about Nigeria and it is not very far from the truth.

Ellams writing is racy and laced with humour – “The charge was ridiculous, I was found guilty of ‘corrupting our traditional folk stories and using it solely for the advancement of ones own personal gain and interests.” – And is full of nuances which you can trace specifically to Nigeria and this makes Untitled very original. Emmanuel Lorien Spinelli use of African drums for sound effect truly brings the play home. And beyond the use of African, he creates the whispers and noise that you get in the forest which culminates in a deep hypnotic sound that transports you to different place in time though you are sitting in a theatre. Untitled as directed by Thierry Lawson and delivered by Ellams  is an outstanding and brilliant performance full of energy and zest from a very promising voice in the world of theatre.

Untitled is currently on a national UK Tour at the following venues…

Thurs 23 – Sat 25 September, Bristol Old Vic

Wed 20 – Sat 23 October, Birmingham Rep

Fri 29 – Sat 30 October, Ustinov at Theatre Royal Bath

Wed 3 November, ARC, Stockton-on-Tees

Sat 6 November, Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

Tues 9 – Wed 10 November, Warwick Arts Centre

Fri 12 – Sat 13 November, Contact, Manchester

Untitled is co-commissioned by Soho Theatre, Fuel and Contact and developed as part of Fuel at the Roundhouse and at Cove Park.

Image credit: Bob Workman

Below is a trailer of the play Enjoy!


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