Biyi Bandele's play Two Horsemen jumps into live theatre's return!
“The more my life falls apart the more my vocabulary seems to improve.”
Jermyn Street Theatre is back with a bang! Their Footprints Festival, on until 1st August, features full length drama, cabaret, poetry, classical tales and solo performances.
Biyi Bandele won a new play award in 1994 for Two Horsemen, this two man play of storytelling and swirling fantasy which has been likened to a Nigerian Waiting For Godot. Full of enigma, like Beckett’s plays, Two Horsemen is a lot more fun with its engrossing storytelling and superb performances.
Biyi Bandele is not only a playwright but has succeeded in other art forms, as a novelist and filmmaker, notably as the director of the film, Half of a Yellow Sun about the Biafran War.
Max Pappenheim’s soundscape tells us that we are in the middle of construction work and maybe under a runway, from the noise and the flashing red strobe. Louie Whitemore’s set is perfect in Jermyn Street’s intimate space. In a small shack there is a washing line, a bed, a single burner stove and table and chairs. A shopping trolley serves as cupboard, wardrobe, for the collection of their possessions. Here in close quarters live Lagbaja (Daon Broni) and Banza (Michael Fatogun).
We are never really sure who these men are as they flow into different memories of each other’s life. Banza is superbly educated with his rich vocabulary and knowledge, knowing the single of graffiti is the little used graffito. Lagbaja, although older, gets muddled and Banza corrects him.
The first long speech is the schoolboys’ perpetual source of humour: carboard ripping and toxic smelling flatulence. Banza, attributing this to his bean laden diet, recalls how his teacher led an investigation into the culprit. With small primary school boys and a good sense of the ridiculous, she held them aloft to nasally detect the waft of lingering aroma. Fortunately I still can access my inner schoolboy to find farting funny unlike a few of the rather uncool audience, who maybe were trying to hold one in! You will have to see Bandele’s play to determine the graphic outcome of this scholarly, wind-swept adventure.
Mixed in with the humour are moments of recall of personal tragedy, sometimes about Banza and Lagbaja as individuals or about their family. It is hard to pin down what the play is about and I suspect each time you see it, the outcome would be different. Could these be two of the Four Apocalyptic Horsemen?
The director Ebenezer Bamgboye, appointed to the Carne Deputy Director role at Jermyn Street Theatre, uses natural performances so the audience is absorbed by the shift of characters and tales. The passing of time is conveyed with the repeated laying and clearing of the dinner table and the changing of the bed linen. I was engaged for the complete play, admiring the writing and two terrific actors in role. Welcome back live theatre!
Written by Biyi Bandele
Directed by Ebenezer Bamgboye
Director: Ebenezer Bamgboye
Designer: Louie Whitemore
Lighting Designer: Johanna Town
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim
Running Time: 55 minutes without an interval
Booking to 5th June 2021
Jermyn Street Theatre
16B Jermyn Street
London SW1Y 6ST
Phone: 020 7359 4404
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at Jermyn Street
on 18th May 2021