"Succeeds in engaging the audience"
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 21/11/11

"What is Power? Is it slaves, riches, domination? .... Power is transferred to those who deserve it. It is a voice inside your heart - Have you heard it?" so speaks the Diviner in this exciting West African tale about freedom, power and sacrifice. The rightful heir to the throne, the Ashanti Princess Abla Pokou is driven out of Ghana because her wicked uncle wants to murder her and her son so that he can reign in their stead. She and her people cross the mighty river into the Ivory Coast. The River Comoe is rough and dangerous but she is told it will be calmed if the she makes the extreme sacrifice - her infant son. It is the origin of the Baoule people. Baoule meaning in Ashanti language" the child is dead". Many people have a story to tell about this legend. Sadly many of the people die before their stories can be told. Oral history fills the gaps left by the history that everyone knows.

In this production by the Stone Crabs company, The story is told by three white robed figures and a percussionist. The actors begin to sing and dance in the foyer of the theatre and continue there until the audience is in when they take their places on stage singing and dancing to the rhythm of the native drumming by Caz Wolfson.

As the rhythm changes the three begin to run - just as the Baoule people ran away from the armies of Pokou's uncle. They use the auditorium - running up and down the steps through the audience.

They take over the telling of the story. They tell it in rhyme and sometimes in song - and they do much dancing in between actions ruled by the percussive sounds of drums, finger cymbals and maracas.

Karlina Grace plays Abla Pokou and uses her wonderfully dramatic singing voice which is at its peak when she has to sacrifice her son to the river. Stephanie Yamson plays her sister Akwa Boni who runs with her and Chris Rochester plays the Diviner, the wise man who advises Abla Pokou what to do. All three of them act as narrators of the story and play all the smaller roles. There are some amusing quarrels between them as they each insist on their own versions of the legend. It is not even certain that the child was sacrificed. Some say the boy lived to reign after the death of the Queen, but one thing is obvious, She and her followers did cross the river and there are many legends about how this actually came about. Some of them absurd as for instance that they were carried across by a collection of giant hippopotami. Karlina Grace is an exceptional dancer but all three actors are accomplished movers and give especial charismatic electricity to the choreography of Leigh Tredger.

This, the first UK production of this story is directed by Franko Figueiredo, and he has succeeded in engaging the audience in the journey and experience of Abla Polou and her followers.

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