Bola Agbaje’s audacious new satire, ‘The Burial’, examines issues of family estrangement against a battleground of Nigerian religious differences.
Agbaje freely mixes psychological drama with bawdy comedy in her high-octane play. Franko Figueiredo’s multi-layered production more than covers all bases but cannot find coherence within this convoluted family saga.
After experiencing a miscarriage, Funmi is suffering from a crisis of faith. Her recovery is thrown into disarray with the death of her father and arrival of her two stepmothers. As they demand a decision over whether his burial should be a Muslim or Christian one, Funmi must face her anger at the father who abandoned her and question her new-found atheism.
Figueiredo’s textured production employs live music, dance, chanting and tableaux in a busy piece that nonetheless successfully entwines ideas of modern and traditional Nigerian culture.
With the exception of Kemi-bo Jacobs’s Funmi, Agbaje’s characters feel two dimensional, falling into stereotypes and making for an almost fairytale feel. It’s a simplistic style that doesn’t always sit with our heroine’s extensive soul searching. But on occasion Agbaje hits gold with this audience hooting at the merciless lampooning of Funmi’s two carping stepmothers (played with teeth-sucking relish by Karlina Grace and Pamela Okoroafor).
'The Burial' is brimming with flair, but Agbaje and Figueiredo have thrown too much at it and in the midst of this theatrical jamboree any real emotional connection with Funmi is lost.