Afridiziak Theatre News Review:
Pandora’s Box by Ade Solanke, Arcola Tent

Published: Monday, May 14, 2012 17:25 | Words: Gillian Fisher | ATN Rating:
Pandora's Box by Ade Solanke at the Arcola Tent [image credit Kweku Fleming] Pandora's Box by Ade Solanke at the Arcola Tent [image credit Kweku Fleming]

A mother’s love. An affection between parent and child that spans any distance and any period of time. Or does it? Thirty nine years ago Pandora went to study in England leaving her two-year-old daughter Ronke in Nigeria, intending to return and provide a better life. But she never came back. Returning to Lagos for a holiday she is caught between Ronke, the daughter who has never accepted her own desertion and Toyin, the daughter she raised in England who feels out of place in this bustling African city. Adding to the family tension is the fact that Toyin is now echoing Pandora’s heart-breaking decision as she considers leaving her wayward son Timi in a Nigerian boarding school. Failed reconciliations, sibling rivalries and life changing choices. Commence some serious wahala.

Pandora's Box by Ade Solanke at the Arcola Tent [image credit Kweku Fleming] Pandora's Box by Ade Solanke at the Arcola Tent [image credit Kweku Fleming]

Ade Solanke’s much anticipated drama is a touching exploration of separation and the divides between family living on different continents. Ronke and Toyin may be sisters but after a month spent together in Ronke’s lavish townhouse are still as strangers. The bitterness Ronke feels towards Toyin having grown up with a mother’s influence runs far deeper than any blood ties. Yetunde Oduwole takes a while to fall into her role but when she does she masterfully embodies all the abandoned pain of a two-year-old standing at the docks waving goodbye to her mother. Her furious rejection of the gifts her mother Pandora has lovingly collected for her over the decades brought tears in abundance.

Toyin feels isolated and unaccepted in Nigeria, her supposed homeland where she is referred to as one of the Oyinbo Dudu – ‘black white people.’ Played resolutely by Anna-Maria Nabirye she still views Timi as her baby, smothering him with insect repellent and rejecting the urban youth stereotype that the media applies to him. However, her desire to protect her son has blinded her to the fact that each day he becomes more like the gun wielding adolescents plastered all over the papers.

The teenagers provide some comedic relief to the intense, albeit humorously presented drama. Timi played by Bradley John is the epitome of a London wideboy. Two weeks prior to his 16th birthday his brain swims with rap lyrics and visions of bling as he becomes more embroiled in the violent street culture that has claimed the life of several of his friends.

His cousin Tope is played with superb animation by Damon Idris. Whilst he mourns the loss of KFC and was shocked by the harsh reality of his Lagos boarding school he has embraced his new life and is committed to his studies. His reunion with Timi lucidly shows him as the boy he once was - all swagger and slang spitting. Having exchanged Nike trainers for hessian sandals he is strangely contented.

Pandora's Box  by Ade Solanke at the Arcola Tent [image credit Kweku Fleming] Pandora's Box by Ade Solanke at the Arcola Tent [image credit Kweku Fleming]

Many issues are at play here; concepts of home, the meaning of family, clashes of cultures and the difficulty of identity. Solanke’s writing is nothing short of magnificent, skilfully expounding the different perspectives of the Diaspora with sensitivity and humour. When leaving your homeland also means leaving your loved ones behind all that remains is the hope that you are doing the right thing. This production shows the reality and the consequences of that decision; the anger, guilt and turmoil that has remained locked away only to burst forth with a vengeance when the lid on Pandora’s box is finally lifted.

Related links

Pandora’s Box is on until May 26 at the Arcola Tent
Afridiziak Theatre News interview with Pandora’s Box
Meet the cast of Pandora’s Box
See all the pix from Pandora’s Box from press night to rehearsal pix

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