• Amy Toledano

how we love presented by Airlock/Annette Brook

What is it? how we love is a new play from Annette Brook about Regi and Babs, two queer Nigerians in London choosing to marry each other in order to make it safer for them to return home to their respective partners.

What is it all about?

It is still very much illegal to be gay in Nigeria, and it can get you killed. how we love is a comedy set over the very real threat of death. It follows the weeks before Regi and Babs are due to tie the knot, as they navigate transposing their very real friendship into something more than that.

How did it make me feel?

how we love is a perfectly timed antidote to the heavy focus on the stories of white middle class gay men, as it shows us the very real threat that queer people face outside of the liberal London bubble, without at any point being pitiful or lamenting. The relationship between Babs (Enoch Lwanga) and Regi (Ewa Dina) is very believable. They have marital bickering down from the start and the love and care between them is constantly apparent. Both characters have to keep up a sustained performance, never allowed to be their true selves, this show would benefit from more moments where we see them not acting. Even when they are alone it feels as if Lwanga and Dina are playing to the audience. Dina does achieve a small moment of this after receiving some bad news towards the end, but there are more opportunities for this throughout.

Director Robbie Taylor Hunt has gone for a naturalistic set and a heavy-handed approach to the comedy and tragedy in the script. Babs and Regi both have big personalities, but this is pushed and pushed and pushed to the point where it can at points be difficult to engage in their personal struggles.

The script in general definitely does the job. It conveys a hugely important story in an entertaining and engaging way. Brook has a habit of overwriting some pivotal scenes, but the thing that stands out most is the third character: Rupert, played by Dr. Paul T Davies. His character is a constant intrusion, a presence never properly explained. It seems Rupert is there to provide a contextualisation for the problems in Nigeria. A huge amount of stage time is dedicated to hearing Rupert’s stories of being gay and Jewish during WWII. The Holocaust is an incredibly important historical event, with unending relevance to current affairs, but why in this play? Why does Brook feel the need to frame an African story in a European narrative? Regi and Babs’ stories hold true all on their own, you feel their fear, their love and their contempt from the off, it is a disservice to spoon feed the audience a familiar story through an underwritten character.

Anything else?

how we love is an important story competently told. I only wish it trusted in its own brilliance and didn’t feel the need to pander.

Serafina x

how we love is playing in the Cage, VAULT Festival, until the 23rd February 2020.

If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!