Lanre Malaolu’s Samskara

Remaining true to Malaolu’s unique style…

Brand new theatre production Samskara sees a fusion of physical theatre, dance, speech, rhythm and music brewed together to channel the experience of the black man in Britain.

From the onset you are introduced to the casts Silent Man who performs a solo piece of physical theatre to a rhythmic drum. He manoeuvres his body locking, twisting, bending and essentially trying not to break. Set against the minimalist stage at The Yard Theatre, he goes through the challenging motions representative of the fight within himself; his shirtlessness showcasing how physically exerting the moves are on his body. Here, he sets the tone of the production and marks struggle as the central element in a black man’s life. The production then moves on to the introductions of Father, Older, Wisdom and Young Buck (though they are only named on the programme). Four men who are
representing different generations. During this Malaolu gives each character a solo where they are given the spotlight and relay stories telling of their perceptions of manhood and fatherhood. This is where Samskara as the given title begins to make sense.

Solid with tension … Paaliba Abugre. Photograph: Helen Murray

None of the men are, rather they are because of their father’s actions. What was spoken to them surrounding masculinity and fatherhood has become imbedded into their psyche and any deviation from that they know would be condemned. This is poignant when we hear about Fathers desire to love his son with a similar tenderness that the child’s mother instinctively possessed. As he phrased it, “she
became a beacon of hope and softness for him”. Father wanted similar, only he remembers his own father’s words of “too much softness doesn’t allow room for strength “.

Between the four of them you hear the typical beliefs of everything a man is supposed to be from ideas that their fathers and forefathers had of what makes a man. It looks like being in control, providing as the breadwinner, and the disciplinary parent who doesn’t think twice about striking his child because he never learned to love with any tenderness. He has only absorbed and pushed down feelings, anger being the only face of emotion without the need to be concealed. There is no space or place for vulnerability in any of their worlds, they only play the blame game, getting so caught up in who has had it the hardest instead of accepting that regardless, pain always hurts.

Throughout the 90 minute production you taste a variety of theatre styles, weaving in and out of the monologue to immersive to physical theatre and the drummer does a good job, considering the tempo and rhythmic changes.

Equally joyful and painful-Razak Osman and Will Atiomo Photograph: Helen Murray

With that being said, the cuts and back and forth don’t always transition smoothly. One monologue would often run contrary to the other; making it difficult to follow each person’s story or even recognise the overall message that is intended.

There are uplifting moments where men are reminded they are in the same battle and better to lift each other up because its more than likely that they are all struggling to breathe, but Samskara attemps so many messages that they mostly get lost in the text.

Though the production is well performed by a talented cast, I felt that it played in to too many black stereotypes and relied heavily on the gimmicks of ‘yo mama’ jokes, call and response—even Cameo’s ‘Candy’ is thrown into the mix. Much of the time I found myself questioning the reasoning behind many of the artistic choices made and couldn’t find a purpose for them beyond being comedic relief.

I would hope that most men would feel represented and able to resonate with one of the four men in a play by and about men, though it is entirely possible that each speaking character mirrored stereotypical characteristics so closely that they lacked real substance. Overall, I found the production too stereotypical to be thought provoking, but if you are out for purely the entertainment factor then it is worth a watch.


Samskara is playing at The Yard Theatre until the 26th of November.

OUT OF 100

Story
60 %
Acting
80 %
Directing
60 %
Costume
40 %
Set Design
20 %
Music
50 %
For The Culture
90 %
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