A case of family fortunes

Egusi Soup

The Door, Birmingham Rep

****

THIS funny and heartfelt production of Egusi Soup in the Door of Birmingham Rep gives a warm and engaging display of emotion in all the right places.

Amusing, gripping and captivating thanks to sublime writing from playwright Janice Okoh with each performer doing more than justice to the interesting characters that she has created.

One year on from the death of Mr. Anyia, this British-Nigerian family are due to travel back to Lagos for an honorary memorial to honour Mr. Anya’s death. Taking a short trip back home isn’t as easy as it seems.

It is clear that death and grief has taken hold of each member of the family in very individual ways, and each story is remarkably and superbly revealed in each and every character, not to mention having to think about pesky baggage allowance.

Each character has a raw relatable quality that is so easy to instantly connect and empathise with. The beautiful writing from Okoh allows us to see both the family unit as a whole and their individual struggle with grief for a father and well respected man. The play is centred on the death of Mr Anyia. He takes his part in the play with a single photo and a worn out arm chair in which nobody would dare to sit in. It has become a sacred vessel amongst the elaborate and impressive set.

Naturally, the loss of a loved one is hard for anyone to handle, especially when the person is so close. Okoh creates true sensitivity in a unique and thoughtful way with each character’s personal story told by the wonderful actors who have captured so effortlessly the incredible journey of the family.

Mrs. Anyia, played by the funny and strong Lorna Gayle, is the matriarch. She follows the rules and is a lover of Nigerian tradition, making for a funny and energetic performance. Her strong portrayal of Mrs. Anyia is brilliant from beginning to end.

Grace and Anne, played by the deep and profoundly connecting Anna-Maria Nabirya and Gloria Onitiri are sisters with a unique relationship. As a seemingly successful barrister working in the States, Anne returns home and reveals just how much she needs her family.

Onitiri puts an empathetic and heart-wrenching stamp on her character which almost leaves us feeling as if we could embrace her right in the middle of the action. She has a wonderful talent on stage. Her melodic voice with the delivery of speech is truly captivating.

Grace has problems of her own. Newly wed to Dele (played by the remarkable Seun Shute) we discover that their marriage is not what it looks like from the outside and Nabirya and Shute takes us on a gripping journey.
Richard Pepple as Pastor Mr. Emmanuel is a spice of humour that helps makes the show as brilliant as it was. While the family grieve Mr. Emmanuel, who has a good heart, thinks he is helping in a wonderfully comical performance.

A hugely entertaining and wonderfully touching piece, this show gives an insight not only in to culture, relationships and raw emotion but also in to family, showing the hardships and ultimately the best moments, moments that will lift the heart. Directed by Paul Bourne, to 22-03-14.

Elizabeth Halpin 

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