As most of you already know, October is Black History Month and throughout October there is a wide variety of cultural events celebrating black history across the country. ranging from workshops, spoken word, inspirational talks and tours. October is the month earmarked to celebrate being black regardless of which part of the globe you are from.
I had the fantastic opportunity to go and watch the amazing theatre production Girls being shown at the Soho theatre in London. Girls is a story of three girls set somewhere in Nigeria. We are introduced to Haleema, Ruhab and Tisana and we are taken along their emotional experience throughout some exceptionally trying circumstances.
Written by Theresa Ikoko, Girls follows the three girls, Haleema (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), Ruhab (Yvette Boakye) and Tisana (Abiola Ogunbiyi) who flee a village attack and are forced to take refuge in the forest fearing for their lives. Ikoko allows you to connect with them and their range of emotions as they are faced with some excruciatingly chilling circumstances.
Although it is rife with some dire themes, the play provides exceptional social commentary and it will most certainly have you in a barrels of laughter. The girls offer varying stances on key social issues as they discuss sex, relationships and celebrities as they traverse through their time in captivity. References to Beyonce, Rihanna & the Kardashians, offer much of what each girl in modern society is faced with. It also provides a bleak outlook on the superficial world our females are forced to endure and in many ways embrace.
The play’s most crucial character, Haleema, a certified self-assured tomboy and rebel constantly finding ways to challenge events and world without a care for political correctness. She is honest and committed to her cause regardless of public opinion. Haleema provides key lines which still ring in your mind asking you to also question the way the world is. A hard exterior with deep down a very gentle heart, she finds herself as a protector and rock for the other two girls and is always in search for an escape.
Ruhab, although a seemingly superficial character at first, proves to be the most adaptive of all the girls. Determined to survive, she displays a strength of character and sadly uses all measures to ensure her safety and that of the other girls.
Tisana, the youngest of the three is very much childlike. She has a positive, silver lining and sunny side up perception of the world. She is always hopeful for their escape and a brighter future when they are freed. She talks many a time throughout the play of America, Europe and United Nations coming to their aid. Her hope is endearing to watch but also rings home her age and youthful innocence; much like the girls that were taken.
My favourite element of this play was some of the characters’ ability to morph into different people which provided great humour to somewhat sad themes. Tisana and Haleema were excellent at this and helped you step into their imaginary world. It spoke to the increased of sense of escapism that their circumstances drove them to allowing them to keep going on.
I’ve told you part of the story, in an effort not to ruin this for you. What I can say is the clever way in which it was told. A 90 minute story told only by 3 characters, minimal props and a genius use of light and dark by Andy Purves. Looking back, the clever use of lighting was a running theme of the contrast between light and dark and drew a distinctive correlation between hope and despair.
Whilst the play itself never quite acknowledges this, it bears a chilling parallel to the kidnapping of many girls by the fundamentalist militant group Boko Haram in 2014. Sadly whilst the story’s focus is only on these three, there are those who are still in captivity to this day. It brings home how much of what the world sees in bitesize clips on the news in various mediums is very much someone’s daily struggle.
Whilst the camera’s focus is turned to the next breaking news, their sadness and circumstances still continues on. For most Bring Back our Girls was a hashtag that eventually faded from the headlines, but for some this nightmare is still very much a reality.
2 years on, 219 girls are still missing. Some of these girls are now women and mothers to children they forcibly conceived whilst in captivity. Forced to grow up way too soon and endure extreme hardships.
I leave you with Haleema’s chilling words…
Haleema: “Why is everyone so bloody obsessed with hashtags? Can you use it to shoot your way out of here?”
Girls is a Verity Bargate Award finalist and winner of the Alfred Fagon Award (2015) and George Devine Award (2016).
Please go and check out Girls, I guarantee you won’t regret it! :
Tue 27 Sep – Sat 29 Oct, 7.15pm (2.30pm Thursday & Saturday matinees) – Soho Theatre
Until my next post…