Festival Hot Seat: COAT
Picture this. Nigeria, a grandmother passes. In London, a son cooks a pot of stew for his mother hoping to uncover hidden stories and unanswered questions. Yomi Sode talks to us about immigration, identity, displacement and his moving performance, COAT.
Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
COAT explores the relationship between Junior and his mother following recent news of his Grandmother’s (on his Dad’s side) death. Junior invites his mother to his new flat for dinner, knowing what’s on his mum’s mind to discuss. There is a cultural obligation to travel to Nigeria for her burial, however, Junior is not as keen to comply.
How and where will the work be staged?
The play takes place in Junior’s kitchen in his new flat as he prepares the meal, however, we often travel in the past to get a sense of Junior’s experience growing up in England.
Why should someone come and see your show?
COAT explores identity, displacement and belonging. It also opens up a dialogue as to how much we know those close to us. Things are kept for protection or to calm anxieties. Often, we dine with family and friends, but we are strangers. COAT tackles what happens when the elephant is the room is spotted.
Even if the narrative does not apply, the message of the show will, and rather than generic “How are you?” questions, it’s more “talk to me / tell me about your day”.
Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
I remember having a conversation with my younger cousins. They shared their anxieties of visiting Nigeria. They all had a fixed thought that Nigeria would not accept them. In the same breath, I thought about the stigma of Black men in Britain and this term ‘acceptance’, as well as my experience of sharing their exact thoughts about Nigeria when I was their age too.
Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
I wanted to share this struggle of displacement and search for acceptance because it’s okay to feel lost. At one point, that was me, and I was silent, and it was shit. Now older, and a Father – I can tell a story that connects, that can make one person feel that they are not alone. That’s why it took me the time it did to write, that’s why this show is everything to me.
What sort of person is going to love this show?
Teens, parents, grandparents… ET could even pop down and spend an hour then fly home after.
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
If I told you, no one would attend! *rolls eyes*
Bums on seats! Plus it’s my first time ever doing a show in Brighton! COME ON! I can’t wait. I think I’ll be hugging everyone afterwards like “thank you thank you thank you thank you…”
What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
I’m not sure how to even answer this. I will say that I am thankful to be invited to bring this story to Brighton Festival this Year. And I’ll treasure this festival because I was invited with just a belief that I will do what needs to be done and that trust will stay with me for a very long time. May 10th / 11th will be epic, fam. Thank you.
What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
The shows that I can see for sure, but the people most importantly. I want to talk and break bread with folks in the community and get my knowledge up about Brighton. I’m excited about that.