Life is full of differences. Hopes and dreams regularly turn out not to come true and perception can sometimes be completely different to reality. So it proves for the hero of Saaramaria Kuittinen’s one-act play On Monday Last Week at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre.
After six years of waiting, Kamara (Shireenah Ingram) has finally moved from Nigeria to the USA to be reunited with her husband Tobechi. Despite being vastly overqualified for the role, she takes a job as a nanny for Josh (Natalya Martin) a child of mixed parentage with a Jewish father, Neil (Stephen Bradley) and an African American mother, Tracy (Koral Neil). Everything seems to be good at last for Kamara but six years is a long time and her relationship with Tobechi is not turning out the way she expected it to. This could be because of the time spent apart and the fact that Kamara has had a long time alone where she has needed to look out for herself and be less reliant on her husband than would normally be the case. Whatever the reasons things are different and Kamara has begun to realise that her hopes and desires in the United States are definitely not the same as the ones she had sitting at home in Nigeria.
Based on a story by the acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, On Monday Last Week tells a very personal story of one woman and her life as a new immigrant going to a country and culture totally different to her own. There are some lovely moments where Kamara speaks about the way that the Liberal Elite – personified in Neil – really know how to insult others in a wonderfully politically correct manner so that the person being insulted manages to feel guilty for being themselves. She also has the opportunity to comment on child-raising in the affluent West where you don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from but can instead respond to the latest parenting panic released by the media.
Shireenah Ingram is wonderful in the role of Kamara, with her intense stage presence and superb voice that could recite a telephone directory and make it sound fascinating. I have to say that had I been adapting the story, I would have made it a monologue piece fronted by a superb actor such as Shireenah. Part of the reason I say this is that, as the show is quite short, the other characters never really get established. Neil is a sort of politically correct Woody Allen character with a temper and a totally believable middle-class NIMBY attitude to everything and Stephen plays him well but, by the end, I was left wondering how he and his wife had ever got together let alone stayed a couple long enough to produce a child. This is not a fault of the actors but more the time their characters had to develop and get into the audience’s mind.
The production itself is nicely staged by Director Erika Eve who makes great use of some old packing cases and lighting to set both the scene and the atmosphere, and the use of the other three actors to simulate the absent Tobechi worked pretty well and gave someone for Kamara to interact with when those moments were necessary.
Overall, I quite liked On Monday Last Week. I think the shortness of the play led to some issues with character definition but, the main protagonist, Kamara was both beautifully written and performed and definitely made the production worth seeing.
Review by Terry Eastham
Adapted from a short story by award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Saaramaria Kuittinen’s On Monday Last Week opens at the Etcetera Theatre in January/February 2018. This important new stage adaptation about immigration, culture and self-discovery, brought to life by director Erika Eva and producer Josephine Samson, examines the often-neglected female angle to the immigrant story.
On Monday Last Week
Writer Saaramaria Kuittinen, based on the story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Director Erika Eva
Producer Josephine Samson for asme Productions Ltd
Performance Dates January 29th, 2018 – February 4th 2018
Tuesday – Saturday, 7pm
Running Time 60 mins
Venue Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High St, London NW1 7BU