An Unfinished Man review – innovative drama can’t quite break the hex | Theatre


Kayode (Fode Simbo) has been unemployed for seven years. But what is it that’s been holding him back? After a visit from a pastor who was sent by his mother, he’s convinced that a curse has “festered” inside him since childhood. Determined to save his crumbling marriage and find a way to break the constant pattern of rejection, he embarks on a 72-hour fast to rid himself of his demons.

Directed by Taio Lawson, the play paints a vivid picture of what it means to be Black and jobless. Selina Jones stalks the stage as Itan, the physical embodiment of Kayode’s manic hex. But the strongest moments come when questions about her true form are raised. “The curse ain’t a curse, but this country,” Kayode’s wife, Kikiope (Terri Ann Bobb-Baxter), protests. A battle between the west African ideology versus the western one is thoughtfully touched on, but it could have been taken further.

‘Innovation is at this play’s heart’ … An Unfinished Man.
Compelling … An Unfinished Man. Photograph: Camilla Greenwell

Instead, there are some samey, noisy scenes; a manifestation of the depths of Kayode’s inner depressive turmoil. As he stands, confined for the play’s entirety to the realms of a central baptism pool – an expert design decision by Rosie Elnile, he shouts out achingly of his desire for Itan to “disappear”. The initial buzzing sounds and harsh light flushes are compelling, but as we get more conversation between Kayode and Itan with little substance, the effects feel a little trapped by the end.

This doesn’t make Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s writing any less impressive. Complete with a fully formed fictional language and poetry that is wrapped into the fabric of his script, it delivers is originality in lashings. He is a real talent and his innovation is at this play’s heart.

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