EVENT REVIEW: Inua Ellams: An evening with an immigrant

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Saturday 8th October
Gala theatre studio
Review by Melis Anik

Music plays and Inua Ellams appears in a traditional Nigerian outfit, dancing down the middle of the aisle, as applause erupts through the audience. One thing is clear, this guy knows how to make an entrance.

When the event actually starts, the traditional Nigerian outfit is removed to reveal a t-shirt and jean ensemble. The audience, having enthusiastically clapped along to the beat of the music, sit quietly waiting to see what else is in store.

When the music stops, his poetry starts. The spotlight suddenly turning the stage a deep shade of purple as he starts to speak. Despite holding a notebook, it becomes immediately apparent that he won’t need it. He isn’t here to read poetry, he’s here to perform it. His hands move in theatrical gestures and his voice captivates the audience as it changes tone in accordance with each line. As the first poem ends, a different music beat drowns out the applause and Ellams starts to speak about his life. It’s then that everyone, including myself, start to become engrossed in his story.

The event follows this structure throughout, with each poem followed by an anecdote of some sort. The music plays then stops. The lights change and then change back. It’s as if we’re going through night and day, but each time the light resumes its usual shade, we’re that little bit further into finding out more about his life. The choreography alone, as well as keeping it entertaining, is one of many reasons to appreciate what Ellams has managed to create here, and Ellams himself does remarkably well never to trip on a word or stumble mid-sentence.

Overall, Ellams’ thoroughly entertaining poetry, yet heart-breaking anecdotes about his life as an immigrant, exceeded all of the expectations I had. From recalling his happy childhood in Nigeria, to his first experience of racism in London, I became emotionally invested in his story, as I’m sure so many others did. Despite the serious undertone throughout, and his brief references to the messed up immigration system, his sharp sense of humour somehow fit the event perfectly.