Photo © Sarah Hickson
A reflection on Cry in the Wildnerness’ showcase production CONUNDRUM,
Arcola Theatre, London 6th October 2017
Theatre’s alive; from first blush to end fever;
A concise recollection of what it means to be new,
And so the showcase begins for writer director
Paul Anthony Morris’ Conundrum, prime source of belief
For its actor dancer musicians and their treasured search
For the truth. Anthony Ofoegbu’s astride a timely phase
In his acting; Soyinka, Berkoff, a glamourised RSC
And he brings more to this tale than anyone else
Yet encountered, with a sense of youth over fifty,
And a matchless and pure energy. Representing
Morris’ drive, Ofoegbu charts the fast journey
Of the gifted child in a climate that no longer knows
What to prize. Scarred by school, scared by life,
A montage of bullying sounds greets his miming
As if Fidel; cause and subject, as child of us all
Breathes each strife. His suffering is intense,
With the soul within set for boiling. With steam for tears
His heart’s fire glazes everyone watching now in this room.
The small Arcola’s locale being merely the first place
For birthing before grander theatres and classes of the mind
Brave this doom. Mental health is the key that opens the hidden door
To our living. Our ignorance of it, our misunderstanding of it
Does us down. Conundrum shows how the mad in being maligned
Define spirit, that inner resource we should learn from
If we are the capture high colour from the surrounding earth’s
Muddied brown. Fidel dances himself from the dirt
Of everyone else’s perception, accompanied by a music
That mixes free jazz with the stars; Sarangi, guitar, cello and trumpet,
Each sound, the soul’s echo as it tries to prise worth from the scar.
The story of a black man in white haze, the child’s expectation near kills him,
Ofoegbu’s eyes, his lead feature become those of the audience
As they weep for the opportunities crushed by the sudden death
Of his mother and the eloquence squandered as his way
With words achieves sleep. The brilliant child becomes mute
As he is suppressed and abandoned. The earth sparked jazz
Singing for him as his exotic hands twist and turn.
Here then is one man with two accompanying actors
And players making a new total theatre that renders the
Mainstream one fit to burn. Here then, a fresh way
With which to express our hopes and desires,
A means to properly challenge another and alleviate
Each despair. Theatre as form, fusing all:
Making the writing of words, music’s sister,
By holding the same tone and value and restoring
Potent majesty to the air. A theatre of the soul
As has been titled by Morris, in which those who suffer
Undeniably seize our care. In this performance, each moment,
Each stage, has been artfully measured.
Everything is there for a reason that is in turn, justified.
Nothing superfluous here and nothing that shows the self serving,
Who have capitalised theatre ever once smeared this space.
We watch a man bound by life achieves the wings his wounds gave him.
Music and dance elevate him as the language of change shapes his face.
This is the project of worth for every street and arts council,
Just as every body’s official represents its own government,
At a time when the lead are monitored by the leaden
We must alter the hell we’ve grown used to
In order to become heaven sent. A paradise made from pain.
And a warning and call to those buried.
The true conundrum is open:
How can we all rise again?
The Cry in the wilderness made
By Morris, Ofoegbu and their colleagues
Honours those in decline and the gifted
Who we currently cannot see.
The theatre was dead.
But now it has been touched by an angel.
Celebrate and live through it.
Yours is a paradise yet to be.
David Erdos 8th October 2017
CONUNDRUM CAST AND CREW:
ANTHONY OFOEGBU: FIDEL
RACHEL SUMMERS: ENSEMBLE ROLES
STEPHEN RAMAN–HUGHES: ENSEMBLE ROLES
SURINDER SANDHU: SARANGI
SHANTI JAYASINHA: CELLO, TRUMPET
ROB LUFT: GUITAR
BYRON WALLEN: TRUMPET, CELLO, COMPOSER, MUSICAL DIRECTOR
SHANE SHAMBHU: MOVEMENT DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER
SARAH HICKSON: PHOTOGRAPHY
ROSEMARY LARYEA: PRODUCER
PAUL ANTHONY MORRIS: WRITER/DIRECTOR