The High Table

the-high-table

Bush Theatre (venue)

14 February 2020 (released)

16 February 2020

Press night at the Bush Theatre on Valentine’s day was a joyous affair. With a spontaneous stage storm at the end of the show followed by delicious Nigerian bowl food, spirits were high after ‘The High Table’ which turned out to be a life-affirming show despite its exploration of the devastating impact of family and social prejudice.

Londoners, Leah and Tara are engaged to be married in three months. Whilst Leah’s family are totally on-board, Tara’s mother Mosun is outraged, ‘You said you were bisexual!’ and her father Segun is quietly horrified, ‘It’s like I’m cursed.’ Back in Legos, his brother Teju has been arrested for homosexuality and his wife has left him. Meanwhile, up in the stars Tara’s ancestors are having an equally fierce debate over whether to bless the wedding between two women who are clearly very much in love. The youngest, Adebisi says it’s not African, the eldest says before white man came, ‘You go want who you go want.’

Temi Wilkey’s debut play is as funny as it is moving, with generous performances from the cast of five actors and a musician. Definitely an actors writer, Wilkey manages to balance scenes of terrible cruelty with humour and playfulness. She insightful explores the way in which we oppress and love our relatives, the only people who see our very worst and very best selves. The council of relatives in the after-life are particular witty and bold, adding an original dramatic dimension to the work.

Each role is a gift but David Webber gives a stand-out performance as Tara’s father whose refusal to accept his brother’s sexuality ultimately contributes to his death. It’s a heart-wrenching moment when he realises his guilt and a catalyst for change that releases Tara from the stale-mate between tradition and personal freedom. Running until March 21st before transferring to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, this is a family drama that will speak to many.

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