Lava, Bush Theatre

Lava – Bush Theatre

by Laura Kressly

Renewing a passport is usually a straightforward – if annoying – bit of life paperwork so Benedict is surprised when a letter arrives from the Home Office indicating otherwise. However, this admin obstacle is the start of her explorations a historic maze of familial border crossings, cultural differences, and complex identities. Of course, it’s still far bigger than than that because a family does not exist in a vacuum. In this instance, colonial and racial violence have shaped entire nations and Benedict’s family is a part of that, and she is here to ensure we hear her story, and those of many others who are marginalised and oppressed by imperialism.

A dance and direct address get the audience on her side right away and establish that we are here to sit and listen to her story. She explains that the government flagged up a discrepancy between the British passport she is trying to renew and her South African passport, and won’t proceed with the renewal until her other passport is amended. Confused, she turns to her mum. What follows is a detailed, multi-generational narration of her family’s history and her experiences growing up and living in multiple countries.

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo plays writer Benedict Lombe with heart and conviction, and fully embodies her story’s supporting characters. She is charming and funny, but also able to convey the anger she carries due to the racism and subsequent trauma she experiences as a Black migrant woman. She works the space and the audience with confidence and sustains the energy of a text that could use some trims.

Lombe’s script is clearly personal and genuine, and uses a mix of traditional storytelling techniques and meta-theatrical audience engagement. There are moments where the latter feels extraneous, though it works well as device to open and close the show and foster intimacy. For a solo performance this is a little on the long side; cutting 15 minutes or so wouldn’t harm the dramaturgical integrity of the work but make it more streamlined.

However, this is a strong piece of theatre enhanced by Adékoluẹjo’s performance. It calls upon us to not just hear Lombe’s story, but to work towards understanding the burdens she carries as a result of deeply systemic racism and injustice and strive to enact change.

Lava runs through 7 August.

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