1) I have a twin sister. When we were 3, I cried like a lost child the first day we were separated at nursery. She didn’t even look back. I manned up sharpish and as we grew older and met other twins, other identical twins, I wondered what might have been had she been a guy or I a gurl.
2) Back in the day twins were seen as evil portents in parts of Nigeria. When they were born they were destroyed instantly, sometimes with their mother. Considering twin births in West Africa out does the rest of the world 4 - 1 that is quite a large number of lost children. Things have changed, twins are celebrated now, there’s even a twin worshiping cult that sees us as ‘spiritually powerful’, ‘tricksters’, ‘gifts from God’, ‘two halves of the same soul’.
3) I believe Nigeria’s identity to be twinned; split between its indigenous population and its far reaching diasporic communities. Nigeria turns 50 on the 1st of October this year, in which I will be 25 years old, my twin and I will make up its age.
4) It is believed in parts of West Africa that children grow to embody their names, that a child named ‘Joy’ will grow to spread happiness. This idea touched even Shakespeare. Cordelia (name means heart) was honest, loveable and kindest of her sisters in King Lear. Prospero prospered on the land he discovered, and Othello in a jealous rage murdered Desdemona. ‘Desdemona’ derived from greek, means ‘ill fated’.
5) John Keats also believed in this power of words saying ‘Poets are midwives of reality’. Those who work with words call things into being.
6) In Hip Hop, the culture of taking on powerful pseudonyms is common. The public is forced to address them on their own grounds, complimenting and elevating them at once, imagine greeting one of these guys: Good morning Mr Most Definitely / g’morning Mr Fabulous / Mr Immortal Technique / Mr Fantastic / Mr Black Thought.
7) Back track to birth, if Nigeria’s reigns were given to its youth, entirely without an imposed destination, direction or expectation. If on their birthday, they were then asked to decide on their own path, to sculpt their own future. If a child was asked to ‘name’ itself, what would happen?
And this is what happened: UNTITLED is a magical realist story set in Nigeria and England, of identical twin boys separated at birth. When they are born, the father follows a tradition of waiting for the first full moon to name his children. He takes them to a clearing in the forest and whispers their names (that they might be the first to know their destinies and claim it). The first boy giggles and accepts his name, but his twin cries instantly, incessantly loud and louder rejecting his destiny. After 6 more attempts, 7 months, 7 full moons, the father gives up. There is an argument where the father strikes the mother, who grabs the named child and leaves for a cousin in England. The untitled child grows up living a disconnected, wild, free, and blasphemous existence battling against the elders, the social structure, the land, everything until the spirits of the land make their stand.
In exactly 13 days, I will begin 3 weeks of 9 - 5 rehearsals followed by 3 weeks of touring. 6 solid weeks of lifting the script of the page and to the stage. Without a doubt it’ll be the most trying thing I will have done this year. In stark contrast to The 14th Tale where I had just a chair and torch, the set is a clearing in a forest! 2 costume changes and 14 props!
THE VENUES: Please come and check it out. I will be touring: Bristol, London, Birmingham, Bath, Stockton, Aldeburgh, Coventry and Manchester. All details listed below, see you soon.
Bristol Old Vic // 23 - 25 Sept, 8pm, £12 (£8) Tickets: 0117 987 7877 // www.bristololdvic.org.uk
Soho Theatre, London // 28 Sept - 9 Oct, 7.30pm, £10 - £20 Tickets: 020 7478 0100 // www.sohotheatre.com
Birmingham Repertory Theatre // 20-23 Oct, 7.45pm // Matinee 23 Oct, 2.45pm, £10 (£7.50 - £4.50) Tickets: 0121 236 4455 // www.birmingham-rep.co.uk
Ustinov at Theatre Royal Bath // 29 & 30 Oct, 8pm, £11 (£8) Tickets: 01225 448844 // www.theatreroyal.org.uk/ustinov
ARC, Stockton on Tees // 3 Nov, 7.45pm, £10 (£8 & £5) Tickets: 01642 525199 // www.arconline.co.uk
The 22nd Aldeburgh Poetry Festival // 6 Nov, 5.45pm, £8 7 Nov, 9am Discussion: Other Writing, Free; 12 noon, Close Reading, Free Tickets: 01728 687 110 // www.aldeburgh.co.uk
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry // 9 & 10 Nov, 7.45pm, £10.50 (£8.50) Tickets: 024 7652 4524 // www.warwickartscentre.co.uk
Contact, Manchester // 12 & 13 Nov, 7.30pm, £8 (£5) // BSL interpreted performance 13 Nov Tickets: 0161 274 0600 // www.contact-theatre.org