One of the three Papatango New Writing prize-winning audio plays now available to listen to at a theatre near you, Nkenna Akunna’s Some of Us Exist in the Future is an ambitious piece which centres on queer immigrant Chiamaka. She finds herself in unfamiliar settings in Brooklyn, with both interior and exterior voices battling for her attention.
It’s a very unusual and original piece helped by the sound design by Xana. Slightly muted, slightly off, this soundscape makes us feel as if the world Chiamaka is experiencing is trapping us, too, while sucking us into its everyday buzz.
Director Rasheka Christie-Carter and the five-strong cast bring this tale to life, wrapping the listener in its lines of text which are poetic, both practical and intangible. Slowly, by layers, we follow what a day in Brooklyn feels like for this woman who is British, buoyant, and bright.
There is clever use of audio to recount an app chat, complete with emojis. We follow Chiamaka and those she meets as they explore the sense of tradition, of ancestry, of individual recognition and definition.
I had many questions as I listened. Why had Akunna set some of the play in a game show format? Who are the housemates we never see? And what really keeps Chiamaka up at night? Is it the calls from far away, or the girl on Tinder who never answers, or the work she finds overwhelming, leading her to have panic attacks in the toilets?
Listen to this one and let it pull you in, focus on the sounds and the words, think about the scenes which are shaping themselves. The five cast members – Rachel Nwokoro as Chiamaka, Funmi James as her mysterious new housemate Isata, plus Oseloka Obi, babirye bukilwa, and Florian Clare – create at atmospheric piece of drama.
The tension builds because we cannot see anything, we just respond to what we hear and conjure up our own visuals. Whether there is a religious motivation behind Chiamaka’s responses, we cannot clearly define, or really interpret what is happening. That’s up to the listener.
The three audio plays which form the winners of the 2021 Papatango Prize go on a virtual tour to different venues from 26 October 2021 – 26 February 2022. For more information on how to listen, go to https://papatango.co.uk/2021-prize-announcement/.