- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘impressive storytelling’

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, adapted deftly by Rotimi Babatunde from Lola Shoneyin’s bestselling novel, is an acutely funny piece of theatre.

Wealthy Nigerian polygamist Baba Segi has seven children with his first three wives, but it’s his acquisition of the fourth — beautiful but haunted graduate Bolanle — that sets off a series of events that brings the patriarch’s world crashing down.

Told mostly via a series of monologues, the props, set and costume, designed by Ultz, are kept to the bare minimum in Femi Elufowoju Jr’s production.

The music shines, with excellent on-stage drumming, and the choir-like Yoruba singing from the ensemble never feels forced. The actors play multiple roles, or the same role over a period of years, or both; characters break the fourth wall and the play also leaps back and forth in time. It’s testament to Elufowoju Jr’s slick direction that this doesn’t get confusing.

Laden with frank discussions of sex, the play’s relentless humour means its shifts into tragedy sometimes feel flat, despite the strong performances.

The dramatic elements of the play also slip further into Nollywood territory as time goes on, and while the plot twists and turns are a lot of fun, they feel progressively predictable. Bolanle’s closing monologue was also bit too on-the-nose for my taste.

However the four actors who make up the parade of wives play the roles brilliantly, and the ensemble also holds their own. Patrice Naiambana as patriarch Baba Segi has faultless comic timing, bringing complexity and warmth to a character who so easily could be little more than the butt of everyone’s jokes.

Verdict
Impressively fun storytelling from a strong cast, with equally strong comic timing

Production

Production
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Venue
Arcola Theatre
City
London
Starts
June 7, 2018
Ends
July 21, 2018
Press night
June 12, 2018
Authors
Lola Shoneyin
Adaptation
Rotimi Babatunde
Composer
Femi Elufowoju Jr
Director
Femi Elufowoju Jr
Choreographer
Kemi Durosinmi
Set
Ultz
Stage manager
Christie DuBois
Cast includes
Layo-Christina Akinlude, Ayan De First, Marcy Dolapo Oni, Ayo-Dele Edwards, Jumoke Fashola, Usifu Jalloh, Patrice Naiambana, Tania Nwachukwu, Christina Oshunniyi, Diana Yekinni
Producer
Arcola Theatre, the Elufowoju jr Ensemble
Running time
1hr 50mins