Palm Wine & Stout (Tour – Sudbury)

What happens when a young man of White British and Black Nigerian parentage goes on a visit to his father’s country?

Antoinette Marie Tagoe, Ricci McLeod, Itoya Osagiede & Sioned Jones
Antoinette Marie Tagoe, Ricci McLeod, Itoya Osagiede & Sioned Jones
© Mike Kwasniak Photography 2014

Segun Lee-French's play Palm Wine & Stout was first toured by Eastern Angles four years ago. It has now been revived for an extended spring season across East Anglia, again directed by Ivan Cutting and this time with Nicola Pollard as assistant director.

In the years since Jane's relationship with Abraham in the UK, their son has grown into manhood and is now a successful business professional. Taiye knows that he is the surviver of a twin-birth which claimed his brother's life but it doesn't really disturb him.

Until, that is, he and Jane travel to Nigeria to meet his father and the patriarch’s extended family. Prominent among these are his half-brother Femi, Femi's mother Stella (Abraham's senior wife) and an aged aunt, Cynthia.

Now Taiye discovers that centuries of tradition hold more sway than its more recent Christian overlay; he exists because his twin did not – could not – survive. There may be a price to be paid for that.

The contrast of attitudes as well as customs is well brought out by the cast. Sioned Jones' Jane is balanced by her metamorphosing into Jonas, an elder on the make in more senses than one. Antoinette Marie Tagoe has all the authority of rank when playing Stella and that of revered age when she is Cynthia.

Ricci McLeod conveys all the levels of exasperation which overwhelm Taiye – he's interested in his native background but concerned about his urban future; he's happy to see his father and half-brother, but disturbed by alien attitudes to the dead as well as to the living.

Femi is a happy-go-lucky young man on the outside, but he too has frustrations which eventually boil over. Itoya Osagiede switches from this into Abraham's certainties as a respected chief who accepts his different levels of obligation with ease. All the actors also play the ancestral spirits who pervade village life, sing and dance.

Some enterprising company should perhaps pair this with Janice Okoh's Egusi Soup – and even commission a third piece to round off the exploration of the British-Nigerian experience in dramatic terms.

Palm Wine & Stout tours across East Anglia until 24 May.