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Anansi: An African Fairy Tale at Southwark Playhouse

Marion Marples

The Anansi tales travelled with those who were enslaved in Ghana and west Africa to the Caribbean. Here they were retold to keep the flames of home alive.

Anansi is a cunning spider, who is proud and envious, but quick witted. This show gives a selection of the stories, based on the foundation tale of how Anansi got all the stories released by Nyame, the sky god, who was hoarding them for himself.

There is a strong moral theme, of honouring one’s elders, sharing and doing what is right. Anansi is given three impossible tasks to complete to get the stories. A twist is that Anansi is female rather than the traditional male. As the plot unfolds Msimisi Affolderbach-Diamini brilliantly plays the bewitched rock python, seven unsuitable suitors, a narrator and the guitar.

Toussaint Meghie gives us Vipro, a particularly nasty snake as well as Osebo. Anniwaa Buachie is a suitably leggy, whirly Anansi and Lynette Clarke is a narrator, and the anxious mother of Akua (Vanessa Sampson) a young beauty ready for life.

It is good to see these stories brought to a wider audience and it is great to have the show in our diverse borough, with many African and Caribbean cultures represented. But I think the writer Lisa Cagnacci could have been more ambitious in exploiting the cunning, drama, nastiness and humour, which children really relish and enjoy.

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