WhatsOnStage Logo

Egusi Soup (tour - Cambridge, Mumford Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
WhatsOnStage logo
It’s over two years since Janice Okoh’s play Egusi Soup was first workshopped with a script-in-hand performance by Menagerie. Since then it has been re-written, re-cast and given a full production by Paul Bourne, is set for a London season at the Soho Theatre and will also be seen in Colchester next month.

Looking up my notes from October 2009, I see that I thought it overlong. That’s still my impression as it plays out in a succession of short scenes using a three-room setting (Louie Whitemore) for an interval-less two hours. The plot concerns a family with Nigerian roots preparing to return to their village in that country for a memorial service a year after the death of the household’s head.

He exerts a powerful influence from beyond the grave. His widow Mrs Anyia is concerned that her two daughters not only show a proper respect but are seen to have fulfilled their father’s ambitions for them. But one daughter, Anne, is a high-flying lawyer just brought down to earth by a catastrophically unprofessional relationship and the other, Grace, has given up her career in favour of an edgy marriage of the sort where a couple talks but never really communicates.

If the pastor is more concerned with material than spiritual riches, his nephew is floundering in a London business and social culture completely at odds with his own instincts. While the larger-than-life figure of Mrs Anyia dominates, the heart of the play is in the relationship between the two sisters. It’s absolutely credible and their heart-searching in the spare room provides the most moving part of the drama. I’m less sure about the two men we meet – Pastor Emmanuel (Lace Akpojaro) and Dele Oaleye (Nick Oshikanlu).

Rhoda Ofori-Attah plays Grace, who wants to be a good wife, but not necessarily a traditional one, with gentle sincerity. Anniwaa Buachie has the right sort of career-woman brittleness as she attempts to over-ride everyone else’s feelings, not to mention beliefs or principles. And Ellen Thomas turns in a bravura performance as the matriarch who has probably always ruled her particular domestic roost but now finds that the loss of her husband has diminished her authority.


Tagged in this Story