Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Anansi: An African Fairy Tale, Southwark Playhouse

Review: Anansi: An African Fairy Tale, Southwark Playhouse

Published in Time Out, 15.12.2010

Incy Wincy had it easy peasy. In order to win the stories of the world from Nyame the Sky God, Anansi the Spider must capture a sabre-toothed leopard, a swarm of poisonous hornets and a fairy that’s never been seen.

Director-adaptor Lisa Cagnacci bulks up this Ashanti folktale with traditional Jamaican and Zulu subplots, all tied together with a twist of South London attitude. It’s boisterous and – thanks to Christabel Cant’s zesty flat-packed forest backdrop – exotic, but hampered by scant details. Too often Cagnacci just makes do.

What a pity that the African flavours feel so inauthentic and that Anniwaa Buachie makes no attempt to physicalise the arachnid in Anansi. But there are lively comic turns within, not least from Andy Serkis voicing Nyame with gravelly, sardonic flair.

For a show about the necessity of stories, however, it’s surely criminal to mangle the storytelling and Anansi cries out for dramaturgical surgery. With a tendency for bagginess and repetition, it’s an hour longer than needs be. Cagnacci could do worse that heed the African proverb: “Seeing is better than hearing.”

Photograph: Donald Cooper

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