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An Unfinished Man at The Yard Theatre | Review

Kayode (Fode Simbo) can’t get a job, his wife thinks he’s depressed, his mum thinks it’s a curse. An Unfinished Man tracks the different cultural approaches to life hardships and the stresses it puts on relationships.

An unfinished man The Yard Theatre (L-R) Fode Simbo as Kayode, Selina Jones as Itan, Credit to Camilla Greenwell.
An unfinished man The Yard Theatre (L-R) Fode Simbo as Kayode, Selina Jones as Itan, Credit to Camilla Greenwell.

Unemployment is tough and Kayode can’t get a job. He is standing on stage in a paddling pool, a tall woman slinks around the stage watching him, speaking only to him. She appears to be the manifestation of whatever is troubling Kayode. Early on, we meet Pastor Matanmi (Mark Springer) who wants to perform some form of an exorcism, believing with conviction that what is holding Kayode back is from beyond the natural world. Over the following hour, Kayode battles, often literally, with Itan (Selina Jones), the mysterious woman who haunts him. Essentially, Kayode cannot shake a bad funk and get a job, and the question of the play is how do we see the funk, what do we call it and what do we do about it.

The design of this show is fascinating and Rose Elnile deserves credit for this. A bright pink carpet covers the stage, in the middle of it is a pool of water where Kayode resides. Upstage there is a platform at head height where only Itan, the strange manifestation of his curse can go. This combined with an evocative lighting design from Ciaran Cunningham makes for a design that is intriguing and dynamic, adding nuance and layers to the story.

Performances are mostly strong, Selina Jones shows standout physicality and Itan’s relationship with Kayode is the best part of this show. Springer is perhaps a little one-dimensional as the Pastor but that felt like a deliberate choice, while Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter is strong as the down to earth wife Kikiope.

Underneath all of this was a focus on the mental health of a black man, and the story was importantly written and performed for and by people who are black. Myself being white, there are probably elements of the storytelling and dramaturgy I did not pick up on or relate to in the same way some will, so I acknowledge the limitations of my perspective.

Overall I enjoyed this story, it is told in a very dramatic fashion and I was engaged by the characters. I thought the structure was strange and could have benefited from placing the focus elsewhere. That being said it was compelling, I was invested in the different ways each character responded to Kayode’s predicament, from the over-concerned mother to the tired-of-it-all wife. I was left with plenty consider on the overground home, usually a good sign.

3 Star Review

Review by Tom Carter

Kayode hasn’t had a job for seven years. He has been cursed by a spirit from back home in Nigeria –
(Can’t we juss name it? – Ur depressed.)
He needs to get help –
(Therapy won’t undo the spell, Kayode.)
His marriage is suffering –
(I need ya help ta stage an intervention.)
His mother thinks she knows what to do.
(The Lord told me and I went to Pastor Matanmi.)

Juju exists, spirits battle and the witches and wizards of Lagos chant loudly in East London.

The Yard presents
An unfinished man
Written by Dipo Baruwa-Etti
Directed by Taio Lawson
Cast – Fode Simbo, Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter, Selina Jones, Mark Springer, and Lucy Vandi
12 February – 12 March 2022 at 8 pm

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