Pros: Yaw Asiyama is an engaging storyteller.
Cons: The length could do with a bit of pruning.
Yaw Asiyama is a real theatrical all-rounder: an actor, director and playwright who presents not one but two shows at this year’s Camden Fringe. In Me Marley and I, he talks about his experiences as a teenager living through the revolution in the late 1970s in his native Ghana. It’s a story about first love, friendship and family ties as much as it is about fear, death and betrayal.
Asiyama is an exceptional storyteller who infuses his tales with warmth and humour, both of which are welcome qualities in a show that deals with some pretty horrifying themes. From the revolutionaries’ penchant for wearing dark sunglasses to his own inability to come up with a smooth pickup line, no one is spared Asiyama’s dry wit.
The moments where he most comes into his own though are those when he’s talking about the two most important women in his life: his grandmother and his great love Gifty. The latter plays a big role throughout the show; potentially too big, as while it certainly makes the show very personal, it also seems to shoulder out other aspects of the story. For example, Asiyama’s response to the news his adopted brother Johnny has been killed by the revolutionaries only merits a fraction of the time that is spent dwelling on Gifty’s eventual rejection. In the first act especially, the numerous anecdotes also considerably slow the pace of the show, which, at almost two and a half hours, could do with some trimming.
Asiyama is assisted by pianist Steven McDaniel, backup singer Sheniah Asiyama (daughter of) and of course by the immortal reggae tunes of Bob Marley. Marley’s classics are integrated into the story with great sensitivity and precision, a rare skill, as a quick tour of recent West End jukebox musicals will prove. The music pulls the story away from the specific context of Ghana and brings it towards the wider universal themes of love and loss. And of course it also adds a bit of swing, unexpectedly culminating in the entire audience standing on stage singing Everything’s Gonna Be Alright with a laughing Asiyama in the front row (‘I’ve never seen this show before. You guys should be on stage!’).
The set consists of nothing more than a few props and some colourful cloths, but Asiyama has plenty of presence to fill the surprisingly large auditorium. And the revelations don’t stop there: this is a pub theatre with actual air conditioning! Combined with the spacious bar downstairs and the location in lovely Highgate, this is a theatre worth the hilly walk that I took to and from the tube station.
Written and performed by: Yaw Asiyama
Producer: Yaw’s House Productions
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run.