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IN BIM Adewunmi’s Hoard, two twenty-something sisters of Nigerian descent invite their third and youngest sister for a meal at their smart east London flat. Chiefly, they want to run their eye over her new American boyfriend.
He makes a favourable impression and the sisters approve. But the unexpected arrival of their combative, larger-than-life mother Wura throws a major spanner in the works of the get-together.
Until now, the anxious siblings have kept the boyfriend secret from Wura and her tornado-like appearance proves to be the catalyst for a long suppressed argument — not just about her overweening influence but her increasingly eccentric and decidedly non-smart living arrangements, about which the daughters are habitually embarrassed in front of potential suitors.
This is the first play from Adewunmi and a very good debut it is too. Amusing, light-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable, Hoard tackles some pretty serious issues without getting too deep or dark about them and it has a host of humorous one-liners delivered by a highly accomplished cast who really make you feel as if they’re family.
Kemi Durosinmi, Elizabeth Ita and Estella Daniels are convincingly close-knit as the exasperated Bakare sisters, ranged as a group against their mother but also subject to their own subtle internecine tensions, while Tyler Fayose plays the bewildered boyfriend Brian to good comic effect. He’s periodically banished to the safe haven of the kitchen as the family conflicts wax and wane.
The fast-moving script gives the cast plenty to work with over 70 minutes of fun and frolics but it really lays it on a plate for Ellen Thomas as Wura, whose comic timing is excellent. The focal point throughout, she is wonderfully outlandish as a proud woman who, aware of her own absurdities, has nevertheless no intention of changing even if her daughters want her to.
Yet she is also so loveable and, in her own fashion, so sensitive and vulnerable that it’s easy to see why her children have found it difficult over the years to properly confront her about the worries they nurture on her behalf.
Essentially, Hoard explores whether a mother can ever live her own life beyond the orbit of her children and vice versa. Its conclusions are surprisingly heartwarming and it provides an uplifting insight into how we should all perhaps let go of our controlling instincts in favour of a philosophy of live and let live.
Runs until June 8, box office: arcolatheatre.com
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