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Review: Torn


Wednesday, July 18, 2007.


By Belinda Otas


4 Stars 


Natasha finally meets a man who loves her for who she is after a series of abusive relationships. He helps her to aspire and aim high in life; David brings out the best in her. She is his African Queen but there is just one problem. Natasha is Jamaican and David is Nigerian. A war of cultural tensions between Natasha’s Afro-Caribbean and David’s African heritage ensues and heir love is a taboo to both their cultures. 


David’s sister, Kemi (Yetunde Oduwole) is adamant her brother will not be seen with a “Riff Raff or Jamos,” terms used to describe Jamaicans in the play. Natasha’s father, Malcom (Brad Damon) describes Africans as “You people.” The irony of the play is brought head on by Freddie (Chris David Store), the only white character in the play, who tells it like it really is, “They are both black, in 'it?” 


Torn brings to the surface, the issues of cultural tensions faced by many, who come from different backgrounds, race and culture, and fall in love with what their race and culture deems to be unacceptable. Yet, they live silently with their pain in order to maintain tradition. It questions our prejudices despite the fact that we are of the same tree, we feel such anger towards each another without any reasoning.


What are those personal issues and perceptions we as individuals ignorantly carry about towards people of the same race and heritage because our culture and country of origin is different to the other? When do we stop living our lives in our past history and start living and loving for today? 


A witty writing debut by Femi Oguns, who also gives an outstanding performance as David, the acting is as loud, intense and emotionally charged as the dialogue is hard hitting and humorous.


Torn is a thought-provoking performance which displays our ignorance when it comes to the tool of slavery that was used to separate us and we refuse to let go of our anger towards one another for acts perpetrated against us. A tug of emotions run through you as you sit back and experience the pain the characters feel on stage. 


Moreover, Oguns succeeds in ridiculing the lazy liberal view of black Britons as one homogenous community. Impressively, he lets these tensions reveal themselves through everyday detail, notably in a hilarious exchange over the different textures of African and Caribbean hair.


While the play can be accused of hinging on the borderline of melodrama in latter scenes, it dares to raise a subject that the ethnic minority community has gladly ignored for years as it silently ravages through the lives of its children.  
Playwright: Femi Oguns

Directed by Anouke Brook

Set Design by Victoria Johnstone

Assistant Set Designer: Petra Storrs

Sound Designer: Dominic Thurgood

Lighting Design by Vivienne Clavering

Lighting Operator: Ema Ekpo

Stage Manager: Lucy Benjamin 

Cast: Femi Oguns, Sheri-An Davis, Brad Damon, Lovelace Akpojaro, Yetunde Oduwole, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, Tobi Bakare, Juanita Chantelle Graham and Emmy Margaret Fyles. 

Torn is currently Showing at the Arcola Theatre until 28 July.


For more information visit: www.arcolatheatre.com

Tel: 020 7 503 1646 


Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine's theatre critic. She can be reached at belindaotas@thenewblackmagazine.com


Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com



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