Esohe Uwadiae’s debut play She Is A Place Called Home shines a light on Nigerian culture through the prism of dual nationality at the VAULT Festival
“If you’re second, you know what you’re getting”
They f*ck you up, your mum and dad, and your dad’s second wife, as it turns out. Esohe Uwadiae’s debut play She Is A Place Called Home has its roots deeply entwined in Nigerian culture, as two British Nigerian sisters deal with the news that their father is getting married again, much to the horror of their mother, his first wife. But it also teases out wider ideas around power dynamics in families, religion and culture clashes, and the succour that strong sibling relationships can provide.
We first meet the unnamed sisters as they rehearse the traditional dance their father wants them to perform at the ceremony and as in the nature of so many families, they can’t stop squabbling. But far from inconsequential matters, there’s something deep-rooted about the pain here. From the coercive control their father exerted over the whole household, to the devastation felt by his first wife now that his new lover is expecting a son, to the notions of (perceived) success that govern so many of their actions.
Layla Madanat’s production struggles, as so many have before it, to fit the elongated echo-chamber that is the Cavern, and a low-key opening section means it takes a little while for the show to find its feet. But a fourth wall-smashing ‘rules for dating as a black girl’ kicks matters into life and from them on, there’s a greater sense of urgency to the play as it spirals ever closer to tragedy. Jordan Noel and Nicole Acquah bring empathetic depth to their portrayals of differing ways of trying to survive trauma, familial or otherwise and Uwadiae’s skill in finding universality through this specificity feels like one to watch out for.