In Conversation with Indhu Rubasingham and Bola Agbaje Playwright Bola Agbaje and director Indhu Rubasingham discuss their powerful new production Belong, giving stud...… Read more
Election lost, speeches made and controversy stirred – Kayode’s hiding. He’s not even answering the door to the cleaner, and Rita is not going to start getting out the Hoover in her designer heels. Escaping the political heat in London he flees to Nigeria – a British MP and a self-made man. Once there, he gets caught up in a whole new power game.
Bola Agbaje’s satirical new play questions our notion of home.
Bola Agbaje returns to the Royal Court in a new play Belong: a co-production with Tiata Fahodzi and the first play to be produced under the company’s new Artistic Director Lucian Msamati.
Belong will be transferring to Theatre Local in Peckham this summer, 31 May – 23 Jun. Find out more.
Bola Agbaje’s is a British Nigerian. Her most recent play at the Royal Court was Off the Endz in 2010. Her debut play Gone Too Far was performed at the Royal Court in 2007 as part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival, and won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement and was also nominated for Most Promising Playwright at the Evening
Standard Awards. She is currently working with UK production company Poisson Rouge and the UK Film Council to turn the play into a feature film. Her other work includes Playing the Game, as part of the Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricyle and Detaining Justice at the Tricycle Theatre.
Listen to Bola Agbaje’s podcast with the Financial Times about her play and being a young writer.
Director Indhu Rubasingham previously directed Anupama Chandrasekhar’s Disconnect and Free Outgoing at the Royal Court. Her credits also include Ruined at the Almeida, The Great Game and the Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle and a new adaption of Wuthering Heights at Birmingham Rep and on tour. She also directed Bola’s play Detaining Justice at the Tricycle. Other credits include Sugar Mummies, Lift Off and Clubland all for the Royal Court. She also directed The Ramayana and Tanika Gupta’s Waiting Room (National Theatre), Fabulations (Tricycle) and Yellowman (Liverpool Everyman/ Hampstead Theatre). She is due to direct a new production of Stones in his Pockets at the Tricycle in 2012.
Running time 90mins approx, no interval
£10 Monday tickets available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.
Join in the conversation @ Twitter #belong
Playtext available from our bookshop (UK postage only)
Select a Date
Dates in April
|Thu 26 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 27 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 28 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 30 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
Dates in May
|Tue 1 May 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 2 May 2012||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 3 May 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 4 May 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 5 May 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 5 May 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Tue 8 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 9 May 2012||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 10 May 2012||3:30pm||Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 10 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 11 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 12 May 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 12 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 14 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 15 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 16 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 17 May 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 17 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 18 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 19 May 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 19 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 21 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 22 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 23 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 24 May 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 24 May 2012||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 25 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 26 May 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 26 May 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
Mondays all seats £10 (available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.)
Concessions £5 off (available in advance for all performances until 5 May inclusive and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ 50% off (available Tuesday–Friday)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
Barman / Buchi / Police Commisioner
4 stars The Times by Libby Purves, 3 May 2012
Ah, now here’s a sharp one! Tiata Fahodzi, the British-African company with its new artistic director Lucian Msamati in the leading role, bring to the Royal Court Upstairs a funny, honest and bitingly dark play by Bola Agbaje. Her last one (Gone Too Far) transferred downstairs and sold out. So should this.
Not a dull moment or an unintelligent line: and coming of a Nigerian family, Agbaje can drill into psychological, moral and political dilemmas which make many white ones seem positively bloodless, in every sense. We first meet our hero, the politician Kayode, sulking on a Croydon sofa in a Tracey Emin chaos of bottles, newspapers, torn election posters and takeaways. He has lost the election and is acerbically informed by his wife Rita (a cool, sophisticated Noma Dumezweni) that he is “trending on Twitter and being discussed on Loose Women”. He scored the own-goal of a “racist tweet” , insulting his equally black (but presumably West Indian) opponent.
Fresh off the plane erupts their woman friend Fola, a noisy sexy extrovert with a crush on him and a remit to persuade educated Nigerians to come home. Rita, a thoroughly second-generation Briton, hates her ancestral homeland — heat, flies, corruption — and knows that Kayode’s mother back home despises her .
He, on the other hand, feels that a trip would restore his spirits. Msamati nicely evokes the patriarchal grumpiness of the defeated UK politician, glaring and sulking as his Mama (a turbaned tornado played with terrifying conviction by Pamela Nomvete) prays and berates him into his old role as her clever son. He always was too European in his tastes, attracting mockery by eating with a fork. The houseboy calls him “Mr English Sir”.
Mama wants him to mentor her protegé, a naive former street-kid running in a Nigerian local election. The lad is in thrall to the local “Big Man”, a showy Chief played with brutal arrogance by Richard Pepple. Perilously for all three, the Westminster sophisticate gets lured into the politics of a country he no longer understands. The clash of African and European, exuberant hustler mentality against careful legalistic idealism, is both internal and, violently, external. Indhu Rubasingham directs, though the vigorous cast give the sense that they are doing it for themselves. Which is a tribute to her.
Evening Standard by Henry Hitchings, 3 May 2012
The theatre company Tiata Fahodzi exists to celebrate and question the experiences of Africans. Here in this co-production with the Royal Court, which will transfer to Peckham’s Bussey Building at the end of the month, it showcases the work of Bola Agbaje, a former nominee for this paper’s most promising playwright award. Lucian Msamati, the company’s artistic director, plays Kayode, a British MP who loses his seat as a result of slinging nasty allegations at an opponent — a sign to his constituents that he has lost touch with their views.
Chastened, he returns to his native Nigeria, against the wishes of wife Rita (a potent Noma Dumezweni). Ostensibly this is to take a break and see his mother. But other possibilities soon present themselves.
Meanwhile Rita has to put up with her raucous friend Fola, who mocks her for being insufficiently true to her origins (“Your nose is up in the air like you have smelt something dirty”). As the action switches between the two countries, Agbaje suggests their distinct cultures while evoking some of the pressures and uncertainties that face immigrants — both in their new homes and when they return to their roots.
Kayode is surprised to find his mother has an adopted son, Kunle (Ashley Zhangazha), and he’s struck by the generosity bestowed on this idealistic young man, who is seen as having leadership potential. Kayode contrives to get embroiled in Nigerian politics — a little implausibly. As he becomes more politically engaged he has to embrace elements of Nigerian culture. Yet his motives are questionable, and Msamati perfectly captures his mixture of defiance and awkwardness.
Agbaje’s writing is funny and pointed, asking questions about corruption and identity. Indhu Rubasingham’s production creates moments of real power, notably when Kayode struggles to make himself heard above the din of a teeming marketplace. The result is a tense and engaging if not always wholly persuasive satire.
Sunday Times by Maxie Szalwinska, 6 May 2012
Kayode, a Nigerian-born, British-raised MP, is hiding under his duvet. He’s having a bad day after suffering an electoral defeat, and decides to return to Nigeria to recover and see his family. Once there, he finds his mother has acquired an adoptive son and gets caught up in tit-for-tat local politics. Kayode (Lucian Msamati) is also torn between the conflicting demands of his wife in London and his mother, jovial yet indefatigably contemptuous of her daughter-in-law. Where and to whom does Kayode belong? Bola Agbaje’s play doesn’t tiptoe around its questions of race and identity — it plunges right in. The drama isn’t always persuasive, and the actions of its protagonist don’t always add up, but Indhu Rubasingham’s production starts jauntily, darkening as it goes along.
Variety by David Benedict, 3 May 2012
“For the first time in my life I’m not reminded that I’m black. You can’t begin to imagine what that feels like.” That heartfelt cry by Kayode (Lucian Msamati) is not just the climax of Bola Agbaje’s engaging new play “Belong,” it’s the thematic pivot. Vigorous acting in Indhu Rubasingham’s precise production gives energetic life to the play’s examination of identity and exactly what constitutes “home,” but although Agbaje sustains her impressively comic edge even as the material deepens, the increasing weakness of her plotting ultimately undermines the drama.
Having just lost an election in London thanks to stirring up racial controversy — “You’re still trending on Twitter,” sighs his wife Rita (gracefully long-suffering Noma Dumezweni) — black Nigerian politician Kayode decides to escape the heat by going to stay with his wealthy mother (Pamela Nomvete) in Nigeria.
But it’s not just the discomfort of being a 45-year-old suddenly under his powerful mother’s thumb that rankles. As he slowly discovers, being Nigerian-born is not enough. His position as a black man in his home country is massively compromised by his status as a highly educated, middle-class Brit. Moreover, his staunchly conservative way of doing things flies in the face of the practices of a divided society that, despite its rapid growth, or possibly because of it, is riven by corruption.
Agbaje smartly balances Kayode’s struggle with arguments at his London home between London-loving Rita and their relentlessly superficial, one-time friend Fola (nicely comic Jocelyn Jee Esien) who always knows what’s best (i.e. attracting any/everyone to Nigeria) and has never come to grips with the concept of listening to other people. Thanks to Ben Stones’ versatile design, the similarity of the arguments in both countries is neatly underlined by having the same space double as opposing locations.
Wheedling, cajoling and switching between faux innocence and tough-mindedness, Pamela Nomvete lights up the stage as Mama. Alternately highly amusing and coldly authoritative, her focused energy stems from the richness of characterization that drives Agbaje’s writing. It’s surprising, therefore, to find the central character so underwritten.
Msamati is an actor of extraordinary range but even he cannot lend Kayode more than a sense of frustrated zeal. There’s less of a fully-fledged character here, more a position around which Agbaje voices concerns about political identity. And the deeper she sends him into contemporary Nigerian politics — notably in Rubasingham’s powerfully staged electioneering scene — the more naive and less plausible the character grows. Agbaje is intent upon raising the stakes via the manipulations of power-broking local Chief Olowolaye (charismatic Richard Pepple) but although the resulting bribery and violence ring horribly true, the thinly written narrative is too contrived for the climax to carry its intended weight.
Agbaje’s 2008 debut, written when she was 26, won her an Olivier award. Although the whole is less satisfying than its parts, “Belong” is further proof of talent. Rubasingham’s beautifully balanced cast reveal the immediacy of the writing that creates real connection between audience and material. 4 stars TimeOut by Bella Todd, 8 May 2012
In ‘Dreams from My Father’, Barack Obama talks about the tragedy of a ‘divided soul’, torn between continents. This is the central dilemma of ‘Belong’, in which a British MP, sore from election defeat, quits Croydon to set up as the ‘Obama of Nigeria’. Olivier-winner Bola Agbaje’s co-commission for the Royal Court and African company Tiata Fahodzi buzzes with dynamic characters under the brilliant direction of Indhu Rubasingham.
So it’s significant that, when not moonwalking for his mother or electrifying the marketplace with his oratory, Lucian Msamati’s Kayode seems curiously empty. Leaving behind the council estates of previous hits ‘Gone Too Far!’ and ‘Off the Endz’, Agbaje opens in Kayode and his wife Rita’s middle-class pad.
Little change is needed for the switch to a westernised Nigeria, where Pamela Nomvete’s Mama greets her prodigal son with a set of designer handbags as loud as her disapprobation and her love, and Richard Pepple’s corrupt Chief Olowolaye – a pantomime villain with crocodile shoes to match his smile – announces that he follows Kayode on Twitter.
Is nationality a question of birthplace or skin colour? Is the future of a troubled country best shaped by those who stayed or those who left? Having packed in the provocative questions along with the belly laughs – and one almighty parting gut-punch – ‘Belong’ leaves us questioning. One thing is for sure though, this talented young writer belongs firmly in the vanguard of contemporary British theatre.
- Bola Agbaje (Reprezent Radio vox pops) Download this Podcast
Thu 26 Apr, 7:45pm Fri 27 Apr, 7:45pm Sat 28 Apr, 7:45pm Mon 30 Apr, 7:45pm Tue 1 May, 7:45pm Thu 3 May, 7:45pm Fri 4 May, 7:45pm Sat 5 May, 3:30pm Sat 5 May, 7:45pm Sat 12 May, 3:30pm Thu 17 May, 3:30pm Sat 19 May, 3:30pm Thu 24 May, 3:30pm Sat 26 May, 3:30pm
Thu 26 Apr, 7:45pm Fri 27 Apr, 7:45pm Sat 28 Apr, 7:45pm Mon 30 Apr, 7:45pm Tue 1 May, 7:45pm
Wed 2 May, 7:00pm
Sat 5 May, 3:30pm Sat 12 May, 3:30pm Sat 19 May, 3:30pm Sat 26 May, 3:30pm
Wed 9 May, 7:45pm
Thu 10 May, 3:30pm Thu 17 May, 3:30pm Thu 24 May, 3:30pm
Thu 24 May, 7:45pm