This interesting production sees twin stories happening in bathrooms – firstly in Fela Kuti’s nightclub The Shrine, where Tolu and her friends are desperate to get on stage with Fela himself. They rehearse their dance numbers and bicker and talk about men.
The other toilet is in the Shimmy Club in Glasgow, where Tolu works as a bathroom attendant, encouraging the ladies to leave the toilet doors open and pull their tops down for the men on the other side of the two-way mirror. Some ladies are disdainful, others over-friendly – one girl obviously having been drugged by her date.
The twin stories themselves are not without merit. Fela’s nightclub and subsequent Kalakuta Republic are rich ground for drama, especially when it comes to the role of women in the camp. The girls are horrified that this freedom they’ve fought for now comes with the implied ‘free love’, ie making themselves available to men in the camp.
Similarly, the Glasgow nightclub story is horrific, and a great premise for a play – and there’s a lot of fun to be had with the banter and stories that you would surely overhear in the ladies’ loos.
The problem comes with writing them into the same script. Logistically (and perhaps pedantically), Tolu would be about 60 years old by the time she became the nightclub attendant. But more problematically, the stories really bear very little relation to each other. The common theme – subjugation of women – fails to tie together the stories in a meaningful way. Tolu – the only character in both stories, is so brash and defensive that we never really start to empathise with her. We never find out how the two stories are linked – why she leaves Nigeria, and what’s happened since. In all her monologues to herself (or to the hidden clients) in the modern bathroom, we never properly find out her backstory, so we never really care.
The dancing is a joy to watch, and there are some great lines. But sadly this script felt somewhat underprepared – and some distilling may be needed before it reaches its potential.