Fringe Online 2021
With Jermyn Street’s Tom Littler has again led a groundbreaking team. The smallest producing theatre in the West End through lockdown has become the largest. The Footprints Festival boasts 43 shows acted live and streamed online over three months.
Directed by Ebenezer Bamgboye. Kay Hustwick deploys a spectral sound design. Louie Whitmore’s bright set centres on a bed, breakfast table and chairs. Lighting’s by Johanna Town. Max Pappenheim’s Sound Design is liminal and ominous.
Lying on the one bed, Daon Bromi’s disenchanted Lagaaja rails at Michael Fatogun’s larky Banza’s reinvention of his past: including the identity of his mother as he does something outrageous. What’s occurring? Two men in a small room. Biye Bandele’s Two Horsemen asks who’s coming to the storytellers and their cat’s cradle of themselves.
It’s been raining Banza keeps reporting (to be fair, we hear it); there’s a periodic telephone no-one answers. Sometimes Banza asserts he’s killed Lagaaja with a gun he slaps on a table. Or someone else has killed a father. Sometimes Banza feels he’s been ordered to execute Lagaaja. And are either of them the other’s father?
There’s a feedback loop of memory, consequence and paternity, of who’s sent to do what to whom. And disconnects. A Beckettian limbo? Inflected by Soyinka and occasionally Pinter, this spiralling absurdism darkens with other voices coming through them: men, women.
And horsemen? How many? Lines emerge like ‘God needs us to exist, a boss must have employees.’ Indeed their very identities seem fluid, disputed briefly, celebrated, bitterly regretted. The overall energy keeps shadows from these protagonists, however they’re engulfed. Predicaments energised, there’s a gallows humour and even joy: Banza and Lagaaja swap initiatives.
If Bromi seems ultimately to settle as the stately dignified one and Fatogun the aggrieved assertive younger man, these characterisations too are pretty fluid. The arbitrary plausible explanation is in its way as provisional as any for two living in a Huit Clos shack, where pulling down all the drying clothes leaves existence bare.
Directed by Ebenezer Bamgboye, Louie Whitmore’s bright set centres on a bed, breakfast table and chairs, a stove a submerged shopping trolley and a washing line where vibrant colours sharpen and soften. Lighting by Johanna Town’s a thing of shadows tracking a story, footlit from the stage, with red-flashed openings and blue hopeless-dawn intervals. Max Pappenheim’s sound design is liminal and ominous, like the twang from The Cherry Orchard on an edge of repeat; accompanied by gunshots, engines and what sounds like the Id.
The glaring energy of this piece can’t disguise how it strikes profundity in its funny-bone. Laughter teeters on tragedy, and as the last one echoes through the final blackout you wonder what’s just happened. Bromi and Fatogun are exemplary, and the creative team led by Bamgboye have kept this fifty-minute existentialist firecracker tight. Fizzing with vaudeville, of course it returns echoes, but is not quite like anything else.