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Review: Miranda Cromwell’s AND BREATHE… breathes life into post lockdown theatre: centring on loss and family with a Yoruba flavour

Review: Miranda Cromwell’s AND BREATHE… breathes life into post lockdown theatre: centring on loss and family with a Yoruba flavour

This one-hander punches high to the keenly seated “press” audience fully masked and hoping that this was going to be really good because right now theatre is just re-opening and coming out of lockdown out of a period where BLM was a loud voice for all the reasons we did not want. Is theatre listening to our need to see more diverse stories, nuances stories that talk about culture, family and loss or even more. and breathe… does all that it might sound cheesy but the writing is on the wall and that is how and breathe… opens: with words projected onto a brick wall telling us about asphyxiation, which is the state or process of being deprived of oxygen, which can result in unconsciousness or death; suffocation.

Writer Yomi Ṣode says

and breathe…’ goes further into this exploration. Each poem serving itself as the voice I did not have at specific points in time. Moments that speak for the book, MANORISM. Moments the microaggressions could have been challenged, or moments to contact a family member that could really do with a caring call. It’s one thing to write these thoughts to be read. It’s another thing entirely to write this for a stage adaptation.  

The sequence is very unorthodox.  The team have had to make sense of prose poems and adapt it to theatre, which has been a fun process for all of us. It’s been brilliant to observe as a writer as it’s also shaped the sequence through the editing process. There’s something very outer body about this that is hard to explain, especially speaking from such a personal space, about a family that still feel the weight of the loss”

This hour long monologue centres on the loss of a beloved matriarch,  Junior (David Jonsson) drives the story as he addresses his absent cousin Ade about a secret that his family holds, a secrecy that unfolds into the loss of his Aunty, embedded in Nigerian Yoruba culture the play’s theme is universal tackling relationships within a family, it could be your family or mine but within some Yoruba families ill-health is met with shame.

This deeply personal and poetic play tackles the unspoken, between what we leave unsaid to protect each other and how we internalise the world.

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The set is not exaggerated it is simple at a desk at the back of the stage sits composer Femi Temowo, music follow the flow of Ṣode’s script, it adds height and drama but not too much so it does not drown out the outstanding performance given by Jonsson.

Yomi Ṣode is a Nigerian British writer, performer, and facilitator. He is a recipient of the Jerwood Compton Poetry fellowship 2019 and was recently shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021. He has read his work internationally at various festivals and performed his debut solo show (COAT) to sold-out audiences. His debut poetry collection, Manorism will be published in spring 2022 by Penguin Press.

Olivier Award-winning director Miranda Cromwell’s (Young Vic’s Death of a Salesman) and breathe… shines a light on the talent that is Sode and Jonsson through skilled direction that brings to life a poem, the words jump out and hits you with the intended emotion you feel the love, the grief and sentiment and are bonded to the display of young black masculinity. The play runs until July 10th at The Almeida you can book tickets now.

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