So Many Reasons review at Camden People’s Theatre, London – ‘funny and thoughtful’
Camden People Theatre’s feminist theatre festival Calm Down Dear gets off to a cracking start with Racheal Ofori’s So Many Reasons. It’s a smart and searching piece, a one-woman show that charts the experiences of Melissa, a first-generation Ghanaian woman, from pre-adolescent athletic triumphs to her disillusioned mid-20s.
Melissa’s struggle to reconcile sexuality and sisterhood with the demands of Christian faith form its core. The character of her mother – chiding, devout, occasionally dancing to Luther Vandross in a pair of magenta heels – is finely drawn. So too is the shadow of older sister Alexa, whose pregnancy at 18 becomes a source of shame and estrangement. Peripheral figures also resonate, like sexually precocious classmate Phoebe and high-pitched Auntie Margaret, proffering “golden nuggets” of conjugal wisdom over the phone.
Tanya Stephenson’s clever lighting design, combining a neon Jesus with a mango tree and a vagina, forms a neat backdrop to a set strewn with cosmetics, magazines, laundry and spray-on lube. Melissa deploys the latter in a grimly determined attempt to climax – it’s one of many skilfully comic turns from Ofori (others include a Tooting-based bikini wax that goes awry and the underwhelming loss of her virginity) that simultaneously conjure a sense of sadness and confusion.
There’s rage too as the adult Melissa inveighs against the God she believed in as a pious teenager, anxious to avoid her sister’s fate. Ofori’s show is a big achievement, boldly depicting the weight of cultural heritage amid the pressures of millennial experience and the quest for personal contentment.