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The juicy satire of Nigerian party politics returns
'New Nigerians' returns to Arcola Theatre in 2018, ahead of a national tour. This review is from its 2017 premiere.
Greatness Ogholi is finally living up to his name with a bid for Nigeria’s presidency. But as Oladipo Agboluaje’s witty political satire shows, achieving greatness in a corrupt system is anything but straightforward. Ogholi is a Jeremy Corbyn type, schooled in Marxism but not in Machiavelli – and his initiation into the machinations of Nigerian politics is anything but smooth.
His running mate Chinasa (Gbemisola Ikumelo) is a ganja-puffing social media whizz. But when she’s wreathed in clouds of smoke, her inspirations are a little less helpful. Meanwhile, the People’s Revolutionary Party’s follower numbers look a lot less impressive in membership polls than they do on Twitter. So a coalition with their rivals United Parties of Nigeria seems like a great idea, even if their leader Danladi (Tunde Euba) seems more interested in chasing tail than thrashing out the details.
Aboluaje’s script is packed full of juicy details and jokes that stay just the right side of crude, and Rosamunde Hutt’s light-handed direction lets the actors have fun with it. Patrice’s central performance as Greatness is a particular treat – his rambling chats with the audience between scenes get us rooting for him.
This fug of laidback jollity is sometimes frustrating, as well as fun: Boko Haram only comes up as a punchline, and corruption is the target of jokes, not fury. But then, it’s not really an angry play. What ‘New Nigerians’ does is give a richly flavoured insight into a political system that’s full of tribal divisions, Christian fervour, and politicians so wealthy they’ve forgotten what their job is. They’ve had Greatness thrust upon them, and the results are nothing short of hilarious.