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Imagiphoria Studios presents Aso – Review

Imagiphoria Studios presents AsoAfrica, as certain people who aren’t from Africa who like to think they know all there is to know about Africa tell me, is ‘not one country’. In a previous day job, some years ago, I found myself at the Nigerian High Commission in London getting a visa arranged for a colleague. A Ghanaian woman was sat in the same waiting area as me, together with a Nigerian friend of hers, and having observed what was by all accounts a substandard level of customer service, she almost took pleasure in loudly declaring, “Ah! You see! Your country! Your country!” before going on to say that had this been the British High Commission, the wronged customer might well have had grounds to sue.

I was reminded of that during Aso (the word ‘aso’ being Yoruba for ‘cloth’, or so Google Translate tells me), when Philips Francis was playing several characters, particularly parents or responsible adults of TK Tokunbo (Reece Morant) and Timilehin Ajay (Omolade Wey). As the grown-ups berated the youngsters for minor misdemeanours in flashback scenes, it was also interesting to note TK and Timilehin’s responses, in the form of a part-debate, part-house party (presumably in the pre-lockdown era). What might be seen by some to be a disproportionate response was perceived by the British-born TK as abuse. But for Timilehin, it was more of an exercise of parental authority to instil discipline.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Nollywood movie that didn’t at some point have someone say to somebody else, “I will slap you now!” whether or not they went on to actually do so. The student party setting seems a little contrived for some of the more serious and pertinent topics of discussion on the table, but it also stops the discussion from turning into a navel-gazing exercise – interspersed between the deep-level conversations were lighter moments when people were refilling their drinks, exchanging pleasantries with others at the party: a good way, I thought, to both diffuse tensions and give the audience a bit of a break from grappling with some very wide-ranging and heavy issues affecting Africans today.

The discussion’s overall look at what it means to ‘be African’ is quite an impossible question to answer, and thus (without giving everything away) it is little surprise that in a nutshell, the show’s final moments comprise an agreement to disagree and some music to dance to. It’s one way of ensuring a happy ending of sorts. The conversations did, as could be reasonably expected, get rather heated, even personal, but a spirit of civility was – thankfully and refreshingly – maintained. The show does need to be considerably longer to grapple properly with the subjects under discussion (indeed, as it stands, this Zoom performance was only the first half). Nonetheless, it all looks promising, and with Black Lives Matter continuing to be all the rage, it’s highly topical too.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The play is set in a British University hall ( but transports to a variety of other locations) and it focuses on three students(Tokunbo, Timilehin and Meditor) as they help Mediator with their dissertation paper, to measure how African a person is. As Tk and Timilehin argue their definition of what it means. Relating the decision back to their experiences and their reactions from society and family. It asks the question of ‘How African makes you African enough’ and aims to make the audience think about the relations between Africans on the continent, and the African diaspora, the link between Westernisation and the struggles of forging a new African identity, as well as what it means to be African.

Imagiphoria Studios is a theatre company based in psychological realism and perspective theatre. Our work is dedicated to creating thought-provoking performances that can universally be interpreted and translated to those from all walks of life, despite colour, creed and age.

https://www.imagiphoriastudios.com/

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