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Review: New Nigerians, at Arcola Theatre

27 February, 2017 — By Angela Cobbinah

Patrice Naiambana and Tunde Euba in New Nigerians

AWARD-winning playwright Oladipo Agboluaje has a reputation for being provocative, and he does not disappoint with his latest offering.

Commissioned as part of the Arcola’s Revolution season, it takes a satirical look at Nigerian politics where competing interests make progressive change difficult.

Greatness Ogholi (Patrice Naiambana) is presidential candidate for the People’s Revolutionary Party. But with flagging levels of support and important union backing in doubt, his only prospect of gaining power is to enter into a political alliance. While potential coalition partner Danladi (Tunde Euba) sees mileage in him as a man of the people, he also considers him a hopeless dreamer and demands concessions.

Greatness’s dilemma is how to compromise and still live up to his socialist pledges.

As he tracks Greatness’s attempt to navigate the choppy political waters, not to mention the personal animosities that stand in his way, Agboluaje is spot on in his lampooning of contemporary Nigeria – from Danladi turning up to a meeting via his private jet and receiving treatment in London for an ear infection, to parliament voting down gender equality legislation, as happened in fact last year.

But politics is a dirty game and the play makes clear what happens in Nigeria happens elsewhere too. When Greatness is told he cannot campaign wearing flip flops “like a village headmaster”, a certain Jeremy Corbyn springs to mind, while there are echoes of Donald Trump in Danladi, a cement magnate who mixes business with politics.

Transforming themselves into five main characters, the cast of three ably take command of a virtually bare stage, generating laughs aplenty.

But the gold medal goes to Gbemisola Ikumelo for her role as the larger-than-life but crafty Chinasa, the comic foil to Greatness’s Mr Integrity. Ikumelo also neatly doubles up as Grace, Greatness’s wife, a diversion in the plot that is a source of more comedy as she is a born-again Christian and he is an atheist.

Until March 11
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