Lekan in Silver Shores played by Emmanuel Akintunde [image credit by Andrew Alderslade]
Currently moored at the Tristan Bates theatre is Tian Glasgow’s Silver Shores, a story of four Africans on a slave ship following the capture of three of them. The fourth man, Kayode, joins them under very different circumstances. While the three captives are just trying to come to terms with their new fate as slaves, feet and hands shackled to the inner bowels of the ship, Kayode walks among them a free man. Kayode has chosen to board the ship in order to learn more about these Africans who have just become the chattel to the ‘red’ man as part of an Anthropological study.
As producer, writer and director, Tian Glasgow proves to be a triple threat; the premise of the story is an interesting and original angle from which to tell an enslavement story and is excelled by the script. We are moved by the plight of the captives and what they have lost by Lekan, the youngest of the three, through his reminiscing of life at home with his family, his tales of the wedding celebration in his village, and the longing for his betrothed. Emmanuel Akintunde delivers a charming performance as Lekan. You feel immense sympathy when he cries for home and an uncomfortable sorrow when he recounts how he came to be captured and his futile contemplations of ‘what if ….’. In Edd Muruako’s ‘Villager’, Glasgow introduces the uneasy position of the African who reconciled their enslavement as a punishment from God, one that must be surrendered to. Muruako’s Villager as such is frustrating and provocative as he continually pours scorn on and dismisses the intentions of Lekan and our third captive, the ‘Warrior’ to escape. Kayode is not even spared the Villager’s constant haranguing of the other two. Muruako delivers a strong and unrelenting performance as the self-appointed man of reason, the sole one to be of right mind. In the final character, ‘Warrior’, played with an assured and confident air by Tapiwa Madovi, we are introduced to the slave who surely led those revolts on the ships and plantations. Refusing to consider even for a moment that somehow their capture is the fault of their ways and culture, he understands their fate and sees the incongruity that his Kayode as a ‘free’ African during these times before Kayode sees the light of day. The story is easy to follow yet intelligent and complex. Unease is a constant feature as Kayode, through speaking with the captives and writing his findings, begins to struggle with what was once an easy identification and alliance with the culture of the enslavers. Indeed, when he speaks of the Africans as ‘they’ and ‘we, us’ I’m sure it was not just my eyebrow that jerked north.
Silver Shores is a minimalist production; the stage is small and bare but for the actors and a chair, Kyode’s pen and paper and Lekan’s chalk to count their days of misery. The set design is little more than a white sheet draped on the wall, the sail. Nothing is lost with such a modest set however. In fact, shrouded in Ziggy Jacobs’s lighting it enhances the audience experience. Jacobs’s lighting demands the audience emphasise with captives, particularly at the plays beginning when the theatre is plunged into darkness to the sound of only the panicked cries of the captives. Ben Charland’s dramaturgy has impact; the laboured movements of the actors when they get a chance to move from their designated cramped slot of space added to the tension. I particularly liked how the actors would regularly struggle with the imaginary chains throughout their performance, trying to make themselves more comfortable.
Silver Shores is a fine production; it tells a good story very well indeed. The script delivers some cutting lines, has perfectly placed moments of humour and the production team work beautifully to create an atmospheric piece of theatre for which Hani Abbasi ‘s discreet presence as the drummer in the corner plays a monumental part. Abbasi’s drumming is strong and perfectly pitched. It is a powerful part of the performance that opens the play going on to support the narrative throughout, right to the very end.
My only criticism, if that, is that I am not sure exactly what happened at the end. This however did not take away from my enjoyment so I don’t mind.
Info: SILVER SHORES IS AT THE TRISTAN BATES THEATRE UNTIL JANUARY 21, 2012