From the Edinburgh Fringe: EXPENSIVE SHIT

by Lynn on August 11, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Written and directed by Adura Onashile


This is a play about living your dream and dealing with life when the dream doesn’t work out. The play takes place in two places and time periods. First in Glasgow in the present and then another time before that in Nigeria in a club run by the noted Nigerian musician, human rights activist and political maverick, Fela Kuti.

From the program blurb: “Fela Kuti….opened up his home, called Kalakuta as a sanctuary for the dispossessed, and declared it as a state independent from the Nigerian government….Amongst the residents of Kalakuta were Fela’s wives and other women who had run away from their homes for a better life. These women would work in the commune and at Fela’s club, The Shrine—a lucky few making it as dancers and singers within his band. For these women often the opportunity to dance and sing as part of the band was a way of fulfilling dreams it would be impossible to achieve outside of Fela’s commune and club. The toilets of The Shrine nightclub then became a place to dream, aspire and fight for a better life.”

The play takes place in a woman’s toilet that is at once the toilet for The Shrine as well as the toilet for a club in Glasgow. Tolu is a woman working in the women’s toilet in Glasgow. She cleans the toilets; sprays them when the smell gets to be too much; gives the women Kleenex after they do their business in the toilet. I was surprised that there are no sinks. She greets the women coming into the toilet, chatting them up, giving them advice etc.

At another time, in Nigeria, Tolu and three of her friends are also women living at Kalakuta, Fela Kuti’s compound. They practice their dances in the toilet in hopes of being noticed by him to join the band. It becomes obvious he notices them for other reasons.

One assumes that because Tolu is now in Glasgow and cleans toilets she did not realize her dream. We slowly realize she has been compromised on her job and her friendliness to the women coming into the toilet is not just her being pleasant.

I loved this piece. I loved how it upset and moved me. Adura Onashile’s writing is strong and vibrant. It captures the patois of the language the women on the compound spoke. In the scenes in Glasgow there is the lilt and music of the Scottish turn of phrase in her dialogue. Her direction is quick, breathless and moves like the wind. Whether in Nigeria or Glasgow the women who come through the door have their own stories, problems, hopes and dreams.

The cast is terrific with Sabrina Cameron as Tolu giving a graceful, heartbreaking, emotional performance. And the dancing is wonderful too with the hint of desperation that the women just had to make it into that band.

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