Last week I went to see ìyà-ilé (the first wife) the new play by Oladipo Agboluaje at the Soho Theatre. It was quite an experience to say the least, with the audience not only proactively engaged but proactively involved. Yelps of excitement and fear, claps whoops and cheers, gasps of worry and actual calls for action from the auditorium peppered the performance (one woman sitting next to me started imploring at the top of her voice for a mother’s sons to defend her and one audience member high fived one of the actors mid scene). It was all really rather exciting and completely different to the usual sit, watch and be silent mentality which seems to haunt British and particularly London theatre. The lively performers were strong leaders in this festive spirit and with the shows eclectic jamboree of music, dance, comedy and melodrama the whole thing came together to infuse the entire space. This atmosphere was taken on by its audience in such a vocal way that the whole thing became the epitome of what theatre is supposed to offer – a truly original night out.
And so I’d love to know what other people’s experiences of this show were – if you’ve seen it, please let me know. Was it just the press night crowd or does ìyà-ilé (the first wife) really have the power to get a London audience past the point of embarrassment and place them comfortably in a world of exuberant and unique participation?