In 2014, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, a move that not only banned same sex relationships but also entrenched intolerance of them across the country.
It’s no exaggeration to say that homophobia in the country – and on the African continent –is not only rife, but also vicious. Many still support the colonial attitude that queer love is “un-African”.
Temi Wilkey’s debut play The High Table begins with a thunderous roll of drumming on the gravely, rust-coloured, undulating hills of the afterlife, as the Ancestors gather for a committee meeting. The atmosphere is taut; the only item on the agenda is the wedding of Tara (Cherrelle Skeete) and Leah (Ibinabo Jack). They must vote on whether or not to bless it.
Back on earth, the situation is mirrored as the announcement of the couple’s pending nuptials creates a deep rift in the family.
Daniel Bailey’s production keeps the beauty of black, queer love centre stage. It gives plenty of space to Tara and Leah’s visual expressions of love, which Skeete and Jack deliver with heart-melting tenderness. Though the themes in Wilkey’s play are heavy, and the dialogue often serious, Bailey is skilful in his use of humour – it lands in exactly the right spot, every time.
Wilkey’s play shows how before the arrival of the British, women loved women and men loved men, and it was no big deal. It confidently reclaims the queer narrative that was stolen all those years ago and it will be appreciated by generations to come.