London Word Festival: Inua Ellams, The 14th Tale @ Arcola

By Lindsey Last edited 118 months ago
London Word Festival: Inua Ellams, The 14th Tale @ Arcola

By Conrad
As the London Word Festival reaches its final week, we moved from the subterranean glamour of last week's words and music bumper bill to the debut run of Inua Ellam's one man show in Studio 2 at Dalston's Arcola.

We heard Inua perform a few poems at Peckham Literary Festival last year and were spellbound by his soft voice and dextrous lyricism. What we saw in mini is developed now into a biographical 45 minute performance piece showing the breadth of his talents as actor, storyteller and poet. He effortlessly entrances the audience with his charismatic presence on a bare stage and minimal lighting.

The tale traces a line of troublemakers, from his moose meat thieving 6 year old grandfather to wondering how his own son will manifest the mischievous streak. At the outset, the present hospital setting suggests impending tragedy but Inua's delightfully descriptive caper through his Nigerian childhood (forever getting into scrapes and being caned) and the subsequent transplant to London (where he's ecstatic to discover there is no corporal punishment) and then Dublin (where he's the only black boy) are thoughtfully funny and fresh. The revelation of tragedy when it comes is serious and sad but not the hard hitting 'oh no' another performer might have woven in. Which is a relief, because Inua's tale is so jam packed full of playfulness, exuberance in the face of challenge and whirls and whirls of wonderful words that it it's enormously satisfying to leave on a warm and human note.

Catch Inua's final performance at Arcola, Studio 2 tonight at 8.15pm. Get there early, he's very popular for a very good reason. £9/7. Have a drink in the very pleasant bar or try the humous at the Mangal opposite after.

Last Updated 20 March 2009