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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Feast
Young Vic Theatre  January-February 2013

A musical epic spanning five hundred years of history, this Young Vic-Royal Court coproduction is frequently illuminating about its subject, occasionally obscure to those not immersed in its cultural references, and always colourful and theatrically vibrant, so that even those who don't catch every allusion or in-joke can fully enjoy it. 

Its subject is the Yoruba Diaspora, the displacement of tens of thousands of Nigerians, first through the slave trade, to Europe and the Americas, where thriving communities live today, still affected in ways they may not fully realise by the customs, culture and religion of a homeland most have never seen. 

Feast lists five international authors with acknowledgements to seven others who contributed during its development, along with director Rufus Norris and input from the musicians, dancers and actors who appear in it, and it is remarkable that it hangs together so well. 

The basic structure dips into Yoruba religion and folklore to imagine three goddesses (roughly similar to Greek and Roman deities in being human-like and having areas of special authority) on their way to a feast when they encounter the mischievous god of misrule and error, who diverts them into five hundred year detours. 

A string of episodes follows – one of the women becoming a Brazilian slave uncomfortable with her liberation in 1888, another an American civil rights activist in 1960, another a British athlete accused by the black community of lapsing back into a kind of slavery to her white trainers and sponsors. 

Music, dance and evocative video projections carry us through other episodes and the intervening history, and the play ends with a string of modern family feasts in Cuba, Brazil, the USA and the UK, each group fully assimilated but honouring their Yoruba heritage in real and touching ways. 

With a large cast doubling and redoubling roles, and some roles split among acting, singing and dancing performers, it is the fluid spectacle of the whole that carries the evening more than individual performances, though frequent theatregoers will recognise and appreciate the contributions of Noma Dumezweni and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Feast - Young Vic 2013  

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