The Kola Nut Does Not Speak English concerns culture, language and family tradition.
It is now showing at the Bush Theatre’s Studio following earlier versions at the Maiden Speech and Vault Festivals in 2019-20.
A musician (Francesca Amewudah-Rivers) beats on a succession of drums as overlays build the rhythm.
A performer (Tania Nwachukwu) joins in dance and recitative. She is Nigerian, living in London. She is also the Storyteller, spirit of the Igbo lamguage and traditions.
The Kola Nut Does Not Speak English is a celebration of language and identity. It is often filled with joy, as the audience is invited to repeat or sing phrases. There are also moments which will resonate with anyone who has lost a family member.
The interplay between the women on stage is beautifully crafted, a sense of belonging, sisterhood, and understanding. Generations of women feed through the beats of music, the breath of words.
In the story of the Kola nut tree, which thrives on whispered memories and threads with the wisdom of generations, we feel the loss of the old ways.
Tania is overworked, unsure in her identity, and unable to communicate effectively with her ailing grandma (“no language we both understand”). In her spirit form she is confident in her skin, but as herself she struggles to focus.
The Kola Nut Does Not Speak English is a little uneven at times, even with the lighting (Laura Howard) and sound (Bella Kear) pinpointing changes of focus.
Both stories told are powerful, and Nwachukwu is a performer who knows how to work an audience, but there is something missing when you try to connect the pieces.
By the end of the 60 minute show there is a reclamation and rejoicing – which included more audience participation to send you off with a smile.
This play has its own beauty, and conjures up visuals and atmosphere throughout. Nwachukwu’s script and Ewa Dina’s direction are strong, and this is a show well worth expriencing.
The Kola Nut Does Not Speak English is playing at the Bush Theatre’s Studio until 17 December. Book your tickets here.
Image credit: Ali Wright