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Two Horsemen at Jermyn Street Theatre | Review

My first experience this year of returning to theatre (indoors!) reminds me that there are no new stories but there can be new delights. Biyi Bandele’s award-winning Two Horsemen, which runs until 5th June as part of the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Footprints Festival, is not constructed on unique dramatic armature. Even if it feels a bit like it’s been upholstered in an Ionesco/Pinter/Beckett blend, this production provides its own theatrical resonance. Indeed, the heavy notes of homage merely place it squarely in the subgenre of absurdism and it succeeds on those terms.

Michael Fatogun (Banza) and Daon Broni (Lagbaja) in 'Two Horsemen' at Jermyn Street Theatre. Photography by Steve Gregson.
Michael Fatogun (Banza) and Daon Broni (Lagbaja) in ‘Two Horsemen’ at Jermyn Street Theatre. Photography by Steve Gregson.

Ebenezer Bamgboye’s production features stand-out sound, lighting and set design, but – most vitally – offers mesmerising and visceral performances from Daon Broni (Lagbaja) and Michael Fatogun (Banza). The result is a comedy of menace and an existential thriller that takes us punters along on a ride: one that feels like someone is going to be thrown from the saddle at any moment.

A masculine two-hander with bare swinging light bulbs set in a dilapidated, purgatory, Bandele’s play may feel somewhat conscious of its influences (the palate is alert to hints of Old Times on the nose with base notes of Endgame) but Two Horsemen still manages to find its own dramatic gut-punch. This play does what isn’t easy: it walks right up to the biggest questions of existence and dares to grab them by the collar. With truly theatrical cojones, Bandele isn’t afraid to write poetic, pulsing dialogue nor are Broni and Fatogun intimidated by the cadence, diction and physicality required to speak and embody this play. Both actors deliver astounding tension and relief with command worthy of deep-sea fishing champions exhausting their catches to finally reel them in. At the same time, neither author nor director nor the cast are afraid to be hilarious. There is a delicious and mischievous stream of malapropisms amongst the turmoil of existence and nonexistence as we are warned not to “sniff a gift-horse in the mouth”.

Small in scale (a cast of two, a single claustrophobic set cleverly designed by Louie Whitemore), this production grows enormous in its philosophical ambition and energy until it’s sort of a bewildering but credible whirling dervish. Perhaps some of the heavy-lifting has been done by the grand-daddies of the subgenre, and Max Pappenheim’s foreboding staticky soundscape lets us know pretty quickly that we are not in a kitchen-sink drama, despite the squalid flat and hanging laundry, but these elements combine effectively to engage and alarm. The Footprints Festival is undertaking another ambitious task: providing live theatre whilst delivering a strong streaming experience. The vivid lighting design (by Johanna Town) is absolutely crucial to both mood and coherence, whilst having to work across two platforms simultaneously and it succeeds.

Without self-consciousness but with admirable brio, Two Horsemen gives us something pleasingly puzzling.

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

Flatmates Banza and Lagbaja blissfully fritter the hours away regaling each other with nonsensical stories. Today, however, something else is in the air: confusion; déjà vu; fragments of past memories. Who are they? How did they get here? Has this all happened before? The answers to these questions should be simple. But for some reason, for these men, in this room – they aren’t.

Two Horsemen won Best Play at the London New Plays Festival. Biyi Bandele has been writer-in-residence at the National Theatre, Talawa Theatre and the Bush Theatre. His acclaimed novels, plays and films include Half of a Yellow Sun. Ebenezer Bamgboye is Carne Deputy Director at Jermyn Street Theatre.

Daon Broni – LAGBAJA
Michael Fatogun – BANZA

Biyi Bandele – WRITER
Ebenezer Bamgboye – DIRECTOR

Two Horsemen
17 MAY –
5 JUNE 2021


  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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