Complicité’s Can I Live? – review

"There’s always a place to start and Can I Live? may just be your ticket into activism that counts"
Barbican
afridiziak ratings
Review by: Maheni Arthur
Published: Tuesday 21st September 2021, 5:12pm

Complicité's Can I Live by Fehinti Balogun
Complicité's Can I Live by Fehinti Balogun

When political action calls, how do we find ourselves answering? Fehinti Balogun asks us this and much more in his debut production Can I Live? a powerful film that explores a Black man’s journey to figuring out his place within the environmental activist movement.

Written and conceptualised by Fehinti himself, Daniel Bailey directs this collaboration with Complicité along with co-director Simon McBurney, using a smorgasbord of creative elements including dramatic performance, animation, spoken word poetry and music to bring us into his mind, telling a tale that many of us can relate to when it comes to the topic of climate activism and our place within it; anger, frustration, confusion and overwhelm to name a few.

“From melody to lyrics; hip hop, R&B, Neo-soul and Afrobeat all play a part in the musical landscape, giving us beats to bop to whilst we engage in critical thinking”

A personal story, Can I Live? puts a different face and experience on the current climate activism movement. Fehinti speaks from his Nigerian heritage and asks why, at the forefront of all the protests and social media posts, “does nobody look like me?”. His honest and relatable vulnerability is truly inspiring; never posing as the person who has all of the answers, he seamlessly switches from speech to rhythmic spoken word to address his ever-evolving thoughts and calls upon his own family and friends to consider where they stand, bravely inspecting how this affects his own relationships with those closest to him.

One can’t ignore the musical talent that is on show in this production from melody to lyrics; hip hop, R&B, Neo-soul and Afrobeat all play a part in the musical landscape, giving us beats to bop to whilst we engage in critical thinking.

Fehinti slickly expresses his frustration at our politicians, playing the role of ‘Mr Government’ in a cutting track that calls out their hypocrisies, then dances to joyful Nigerian rhythms that take us through his family ties in West Africa. The energetic nature of using different genres makes the watching experience even more compelling, refreshingly guiding us through an issue that can sometimes feel like a lecture.

“There’s always a place to start and Can I Live? may just be your ticket into activism that counts”.

Filmed at the Barbican during lockdown last year, the use of the space keeps us on our toes and immersed within Fehinti’s journey; akin to a Neil deGrasse Tyson documentary, projections and 3D animation bring stark statistics to life. The flitting from set piece to set piece, showing us behind the scenes and back again is a clever way to reflect the almost chaotic nature of how one may find themselves fitting their own activism amongst everyday life.

Can I Live? is as self-aware as it is encouraging; it asks us to always be political, to use our voices and to remember that anger can always be used as a call to action. Commending the previous and current efforts of individuals and organisations alike, Fehinti reminds us that whilst there is hope, that hope comes alongside all of us doing the work to hold the powers that be accountable. This film is not only important, but necessary viewing for all, and anyone who may feel burdened by the enormity of the conversation. There’s always a place to start and Can I Live? may just be your ticket into activism that counts.

NEED TO KNOW: Complicité’s Can I Live begins its digital tour online in November, running from the 1st to the 12th.
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