Jollof Wars, VAULT Festival

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by Amber Pathak

The play opens with three, young lads playing games. As it reaches dinner time they begin to debate whose country’s food is better: Jamaica, Cameroon or Ghana? This is the basis of Jollof Wars – an argument between two families that will see relationships broken and mended. Focusing on the engagement of a Ghanaian man to a Nigerian woman, Jollof Wars gives a witty yet poignant insight into how culture influences our choices, and in turn impacts the rest of our lives.

This is traditional storytelling with a unique approach. Gail Egbeson masterfully adds substance to parts of the show where normally there is nothing; much like a plate of jollof she wants nothing going to waste. Take, for example, transitions – they are a necessary yet boring part of most plays. But Egbeson turns each one into a party, with blaring music and keeping the stage lit. This allows the audience to see the actors dancing as they re-arrange the set. It’s hard to not bop along. The set, along with the props, are basic and minimal, though not without their merits. The most dramatic moment is when Stevens’ character is presented with a jar of shito – hot pepper sauce.

The third act breaks away from a naturalistic style and involves some audience participation. While the shift in tone works overall, at points in the final scene it is hard to gauge some of the characters’ feelings, in particular Wiktoria Wabnyc’s Judge.

With the current political climate fueling cultural segregation, we need more shows like Jollof Wars. Thoughtful and funny, this is a story of coming together despite our differences.

Jollof Wars runs through 16 February.

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