Yomi Sode’s COAT brings a sizzling performance to the stage, one that evokes all the senses. The show explores the relationship between food and growing up British-Nigerian in London, and is all about food’s significance in identity, home and parental relationships that strain under the pressures of cultural differences and practices. The audience, and ultimately the diners, are left to consume the peppered ponderings of a young man’s angst and frustration in trying to understand how his past informs his present.
COAT opens with Yomi running through ingredients to prepare one of his favourite Nigerian dishes – Obe – for his mother to try. They have a difficult subject to discuss. Yomi hopes this meal will ease the flow of conversation and recognises, in the process of cooking this meal, his appreciation of his mother;
“Everything is measured right for this Obe, I think. I’ve laid out the ingredients. I didn’t add too much Maggi because I’m rubbish at opening, crushing and trying not to get it in my nails but mum, even with the harshness life has dealt her, could gently crush a Maggi cube between her thumb and side of her index finger effortlessly without causing a mess. And me? Like a young Daniel San in training, watching my African Miyagi make the impossible possible. Once I make this, she will be proud of me.”
Yomi applies loving attention into making Obe for his mother, hoping she will approve of his attempt – though we know, she probably makes the stew best.
But the play is not all sombre meditations, there are plenty of mouth-watering moments where Yomi stirs laughter among the audience through his rapturous retelling of his childhood and uncovering the stark differences in our fridges…
“Rob opens his fridge, there are no pots in there. At home, mum stacks the fridge with pots of food that will last two weeks, but not in Robert, Rob’s house. He has Babybel, Sunny Delight, ham, yogurt, the food I see on telly, food you microwave for 3/5 minutes. His cupboard is filled with Super noodles, Heinz baked beans, and Tuna! Mine is filled with Indomie, Ewa, Gari, Iru and other food mum purchased from the market.”
Reading Indomie and thinking of Obe stew leaves one craving home-cooked meals and a feast of poetry. Hungry…? We are too!
If you can relate to home-cooked meals invoking thoughts of home, identity and cultural difference, then share your views with us online with #COATatAfricaWrites.
Yomi will be opening the Africa Writes 2018 festival at the British Library on 29 June, so book your tickets for COAT before they sell out!
Image credit: Natalie Fiawoo