Last Updated on February 16, 2020 by Fiona Maclean
The High Table – from London to Lagos
It’s Valentine’s Day at the Bush Theatre and a celebration of love with the joyous opening of Temi Wilkey’s heart-warming and highly accomplished debut play The High Table. A touching and at times very funny exploration of homosexuality, marriage, cultural values and traditions, and intergenerational family dynamics.
Directed with great insight and abundant energy by Daniel Bailey, this multi-layered play is set in London, Lagos and somewhere in between; a liminal world in the form of the afterlife.
The plot revolves around young lesbian couple Tara and Leah who want to tie the knot. Tara is played with a lovely openness by Cherrelle Skeete and Ibinabo Jack’s more awkward Leah is an absolute delight, she has remarkable comic timing which makes the couple’s relationship particularly watchable. There’s a great comic scene in which Tara is teaching Leah to dance the Candy in preparation for the wedding.
The couple goes to visit Tara’s Nigerian family to break the news of the wedding to her mother Mosun (the marvellous Jumoké Fashola) and father Segun (splendidly portrayed by David Webber), however, the response is one of absolute horror and denial. Mosun believes that homosexuality is “an abomination”, and Segun who has been the more supportive of his only daughter has his own reasons for refusing to accept the news and change his homophobic attitudes. We later discover that Segun’s brother Teju (Stefan Adegbola) has been arrested for attending a gay club in Lagos and he looks to Segun to bail him out, this is depicted in a powerful scene between the brothers in Nigeria.
The afterlife provides a great vehicle for a lively debate about both present and past attitudes and prejudices towards homosexuality and historical African events, it is also peppered with humour including an amusing joke about “African time”.
Tara’s ancestors are given a platform in which they must make the decision as to whether the wedding should go ahead or not. Parts are cleverly switched here with Ibinabo Jack doubling as Adebisi, Jumoké Fashola as Yetunde and David Webber as Babatunde. Teju joins them as himself after his death and brings a new perspective to the table which enables a shift in the dynamics. Tara always remains in the present which goes to accentuate her isolation as she struggles to hold on to her future dreams sandwiched between the love of a woman and her family.
This atmospheric piece is set on a baron earthy stage (Natasha Jenkins), warmly lit in shades of orange and illuminating blues (lighting José Tavar) with expressive and ambient drumming from talented percussionist Mohamed Gueye. It shifts cleverly between tremendous joy and laughter to deep-rooted pain and fury at the archaic attitudes and slow pace of change which in this narrative poignantly portrays the depth of bigotry both culturally and socially that still remains especially in African countries.
The audience response was palpable. The first act, in particular, was very funny and had everyone roaring laughter and in contrast during the tense emotional moments, you could hear a pin drop.
The High Table really is a real cause for celebration, it’s vibrant and uplifting, brimming with tension, chemistry, and love.
The High Table is at the Bush Theatre until 21 March and will then be at the Birmingham Rep from 25 March until 9 April.
7 Uxbridge Rd,
London W12 8LJ
Phone: 020 8743 5050
Looking for somewhere to eat in the area? We love Cocotte in nearby Notting Hill or a little closer to the theatre, can recommend The Wellbourne Brasserie in White City and also recommend Shikumen at the Dorsett