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Stuart King

Review: HOARD at the Arcola Theatre

Hoard - Arcola Theatre For Bili, introducing her American boyfriend Brian to her elder sisters Rafi and Ami over a traditional Nigerian family dinner, was always going to be a big step. The unexpected arrival of the girls’ (uninvited) mother Wura however, proves an effective catalyst for mayhem over the cheesecake.

Such is the simple and much used premise for HOARD, Bim Adewunmi’s first foray into playwriting after a successful career in journalism. Through the rhythmic familial patter of her characters’ dialogue, we learn that the sisters have been hiding the 7-month relationship from their mother, so when Wura encounters Brian, she is charm itself, but justifiably affronted by the obvious deception by her daughters. Cue the steady but jarring sound of opening cans - the type packed with worms! Brian is consigned to the kitchen whilst mother and daughters pick the scabs off old grudges and grievances next door.

Ostensibly the main cause of their ongoing conflict, is Wura’s hoarding of ‘merchandise’ in readiness for launching her international import/export business. This may sound a little trite as a subject for such a divisive family feud, but when we learn how the sisters endured years of humiliation and embarrassment with friends, boyfriends and even the gasman, all of whom made judgements about how they lived in a four bedroom house filled to the rafters with boxes ‘set aside’ for the future, (at the expense of comfort now), it begins to make sense.

Each of the cast members - Estella Daniels, Kemi Durosinmi, Elizabeth Ita and Tyler Fayose - has made a genuine effort to embody their character and develop a believable personality, but unsurprisingly perhaps, it is Ellen Thomas in the role of the ardent matriarch - whose responsibility it is to keep her brood in order with choice reminders of their heritage - who holds the whole piece juicily together with sarcasm, feigned hurt and always a knowing twinkle in her eye.

Director Femi Elufowoju jr has made a few odd choices in terms of blocking positions in this rectangular space (surrounded on three sides by the audience), but in general has gleaned solid and believable performances from his cast of five, who (a couple of days after Press Night) seemed to be settling nicely into their run.