Review: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, Arcola Theatre

Based on the best-selling novel by Lola Shoneyin and adapted for the theatre by Rotimi Babatunde, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives bursts onto stage at the Arcola Theatre and packs a punch.

This vibrant and empowering production tells the story of polygamy and sexual politics in modern day Nigeria. Baba Segi (Patrice Naiambana) is a rich, overweight, charismatic but chauvinistic man with four wives: fellow “inmates” Iya Segi (Jumoké Fashola), Iya Tope (Christina Oshunniyi), Iya Femi (Layo-Christina Akinlude), who have borne him seven children; and young university graduate Bolanle (Marcy Dolapo Oni). It’s Bolanle’s arrival and Segi’s wish to expand his family further that sets the wheels in motion and uncovers secrets that turns their world upside down.

Performed in the round in the Arcola’s main stage, the play features original and infectious Yoruba music, songs and dance accompanied by traditional instruments and is brilliantly directed and choreographed by Femi Elufowoju, jr and Kemi Durosinmi respectively. Though the staging is minimalistic, it works and the audience really do feel part of the performance, as though they’ve been invited into Baba Segi’s home to see the action played out.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives explores many issues, some very unsettling indeed, including abortion and rape, and it’s both gripping and shocking at times. But there are also light-hearted moments too. Though there is a little too much childish humour at times, some parts are incredibly funny – the scene where Baba Segi is being questioned by the doctor about his sex life in particular left the audience in fits of laughter.

The characters are all incredibly compelling, even those who would ordinarily be unlikeable. Naiambana is brilliant as Baba Segi, and you can’t help but warm to the character, despite his outdated views of women. It’s a terrific cast all round in fact, with strong energetic performances, and the storytelling and monologues are mesmerising.

Joyous and enchanting, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is an energetic, entertaining show with a lot to say. From the moment the play starts it’s completely captivating, and two hours simply fly by.

Four stars

This review was originally written for Love London Love Culture. To read the original, click here.

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