Wild Card: Obibini – Saddlers Wells, London

Artistic Director: Kwame Asafo-Adjei

Reviewer: Sophia Moss

A man in ragged clothes and dreadlocks slithers across the floor making rasping noises that make him look like a cross between a snake and a zombie. Four men in loincloths leap from the toilet area and surround him. The audience surround them as they fight, walk and dance. Their sweaty faces are sometimes within inches of our own, but their facial expressions look past us, caught up in a violent world historically familiar and brutally accurate.

Spoken Movement is a series of performances which explore sound, speech and movement from the perspective of director Kwame Asafo-Adjei. The pre-show performance takes place in the reception area, while the rest on a minimalist stage uses lighting, tables, a DJ booth, and animation to take us through evolution from ape to modern man, and water buckets to transport us through time and space.

The first piece White paper, Black inkstarts with a hanging man ziplined past the audience’s heads and over the stage. Two people sit in silence as Flanagan andAllen’s Run Rabbit Runplays in the background, barely reacting to the hanging man zipping overhead until the only white performer stands up and adjusts the stage curtains, apparently trying to hide the hanged man from sight. This spoken word piece plays with sound, such as the plopping of a tea bag or the grating sound of a toothpick – with the white dancers sinister, racially charged words thankfully cut short when four men dressed in loincloths leap onto the stage, silencing the speaker by surrounding him.

The following performances Akwaaba, Shaping Humanity and Family Honour explore culture, propaganda, religion and power struggles through impressive multi-level contemporary dance, speech and acting. Family Honour focuses on an argument between a priest and his daughter and involves two performances sitting on opposite sides of a table. The use of small movements, such as hand gestures and facial expressions, is impressive in all of Kwame’s work and it is especially striking here, reflecting the tension between the two performers from the smallest of gestures to outright conflict. There is a particularly striking sequence involving one performer struggling to put on a pair of trousers, the loose, fluid movements both impressive and relatable.

The spoken word in Family Honour involves the priest preaching the gospel while forgetting his scripture and asking for prompts from a man dressed in a full body suit. He asks the audience to repeat “God is good” while asking us for “money money” (while a donation basket is passed around the audience). It is strange and powerful in equal measure, conjuring up real-world images in its surrealism.

The final performance is more of an acting sequence and revolves around three drug dealers in South London. They are hilarious and strangely lovable in their interactions with each other, but beneath the comedy lurks deeper meanings of crime, politics and family. This Wildcard evening explores political, historical and social issues from a black perspective, using movement and to make the audience question their own identity and perception. It is a powerful, angry, comedic and tragic series of performances which are even more important because they are uncomfortable.

Reviewed on 12 April 2018 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Uncomfortable and compelling

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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