At TogetherintheUK, we continue to discover and celebrate the creativity that can come with moving countries, as well as acknowledging the challenges. In this blog, Shola Jones shares her excitement at hearing Inua Ellams talk about his experience. He is touring the UK with the show so check out the links at the end of the review to see if you can catch the show.
Review of An Evening with an Immigrant
It was the event I had been waiting for all week, ‘An evening with an immigrant’ written by Inua Ellams (who had already drawn my attention with his mind blowing and immensely entertaining play ‘The Barber Shop chronicles’ at the National Theatre), was finally here at Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre and I was so very much excited. Myself, a daughter of Caribbean immigrant parents, my life in London was a world apart from their childhood and I devoured any mention they could tell me of this mysterious ‘back home’ they referred to. I was therefore eager to hear Inua’s story; to hear how his path brought him to where he is today. And I wasn’t disappointed. Inua has lived an incredible life. At 33 years old he tells us of his journey from his middle class life in Nigeria, to the difficulties he faced in London and Dublin. Punctuated with his poetry throughout, lyrically captivating and richly layered with his evident wit and charisma the evening flowed effortlessly. I could have been talking with my friend. I really wished he was my friend.
Inua’s story is fascinating and equally gripping. He paints a picture of hard working parents. His father a Muslim and mother a Christian, this was an upbringing that worked organically for him, visiting both churches and mosques, was not out of the ordinary. His memories evoke in you such colour, such culture of life in Africa, you can almost imagine the figures of his family around him on stage. Where his punctuations of mischievous exploits with friends at boarding school or anecdotes of writing poetry with the help of those trusty blue Argos pens have you smiling, laughing, there are times his experiences hit you in a resonating clang of grief. Inua’s story is plagued by loss of his home in Nigeria to the spread of Boko Haram, fleeing and leaving his life, his identity and very being behind. At times, it was hard to watch; the pain still ever so present on his face as his uncertain UK status forever follows him on stage like an ominous dark cloud. The obstacles he faces, the faith in a system that only seems to fail or exploit an immigrant hits hard as you see the toil it takes on his family.
Life does not stand still for Inua however. It would be impossible to stem the talent that spurns from such a young man with the burdens he faces. He is bursting with talent and ready to share it. His poetry skilfully weaves in and out of his stories, always fixing your attention and adding beautifully intricate details to the already expansive journey he describes. Moved by his story was an understatement; I was completely floored by it and felt genuine elation in his conquests to poetry readings, to his scripts leaping to life on stage to meeting the Queen. Despite everything, he shines, shines so incredibly bright. I cannot wait to hear what else he creates because there is no doubt there is more to come from Inua as he continues to keep driving forward. This is one person determined to keep going despite walking deep into a future unknown
To catch some showings of evening with an immigrant check out the fuel theatres page https://www.fueltheatre.com/projects/an-evening-with-an-immigrant
The Barbershop chronicles is back at the national theatre until December.