Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True

January 30, 2018

in Performance Art, Plays

Play / Performance

Directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa

American Repertory Theater
Loeb Drama Center
Harvard University
January 26 – February 11, 2018

Writers and Performers: Ifeoma Fafunwa, Tunde Aladese, Mosjisola Ajibol, Wole Oguntokun, Prinncess Olufemi-Kayode, Ijeoma Ogweugbu

Elvina Ibru and Joke Silva in 'HEAR WORD! Naija Woman Talk True'

Elvina Ibru and Joke Silva
in “HEAR WORD! Naija Woman Talk True”
Photo: Gretjen Helene Photography
Courtesy of American Repertory Theater

A moving dramatized account, by a group of Nigerian women, of sexism, assault and repression.

Inspired doubly by Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (1996) and by Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (1975), director and coordinator Ifeoma Fafunwa has put together a narrative offered by a group of women who deliver moving and vivid accounts of sexual repression in Nigeria. The women appear in sequence, each giving an account usually having to do with manipulation, betrayal or disappointment by the men in their lives. The narratives are supported by a modest amount of staging and brief musical interludes offered by a group of drummers.

The stories are frequently heartbreaking, having to do with the hope for relationship but the more frequent than not sense of betrayal ranging from abandonment and infidelity to much harsher consequences.

There are also, particularly near the end, a couple of accounts of much more positive aspects of relationship. One woman speaks positively about intimacy with her husband. Another gives a completely visceral account of her own sexuality and the delight she takes in sex with her partner.

Apart from these few contrasting accounts of a positive sort, the show is dominated by awful stories and appropriately defiant responses to neglect, betrayal and abuse.

The fact that these are Nigerian women taking inspiration from Eve Ensler and Ntozake Shange and laying their cards on the table is remarkable. The stories are heartfelt and vivid but the fact of them telling them at all is more striking.

The small amount of staging tends to make the piece seem a bit more crafted and a bit less edgy than it might have been. At heart it’s a tough piece and would benefit from showing its rough edges. But that it exists at all is a minor miracle, and particularly in this season in which stories of sexual predation have dominated the news, it carries its message even more forcefully.

– BADMan

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