Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Josephine Samson: On Monday Last Week

By | Published on Thursday 25 January 2018

Onstage this week at The Etcetera Theatre is ‘On Monday Last Week’, an adaptation of a story by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s about a young woman who emigrates from her home country to the United States, and what happens when she gets there.
I thought this sounded like a really interesting production, dealing with some very interesting and timely themes, so I spoke to producer Josephine Samson to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the narrative of ‘On Monday Last Week’? What story does the play tell?
JS: The play tells the story of Kamara, who has recently moved from Nigeria to the United States, to join her husband Tobechi after six years of waiting. However she quickly finds out that the dream life her husband left for is not there – instead, the engineer is driving a taxi, and they are crammed in a small apartment with poor prospects for the future. Moreover, Kamara has come to understand that an ocean between her and Tobechi had diluted their passion. She starts working as a nanny, looking after Josh in an eccentric American family with a pedantic health fanatic father and a bohemian artist mother under the same roof. This experience exposes her to the oddities of the American culture. But soon after, Kamara starts realising that a new exciting desire is crawling into her flavourless life…

CM: What would you say are the main themes of the piece?
JS: Social class, immigration, and same sex love are the themes that emerge through this piece.

CM: What made you want to bring this story to the stage?
JS: The play’s director Erika Eva and I are huge fans of the author. The time felt right to work on a project that is close to our hearts and add another dimension to an already fabulous piece of work. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story ‘On Monday Last Week’ is a psychologically dramatic tale which we believed would serve well as a staged version. Live theatre offers the perfect platform for such stories which are strongly based on relationships. We were mostly interested in this particular short story because of its deep and relatable themes, of same sex love, immigration and social class.

CM: How close is the stage adaptation to the original story?
JS: We felt it was important for the stage adaptation to be as faithful to the original short story as we could reasonably allow. The writing style of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is respected in the dialogue and the main story. The original characters remain in the adaptation. However, to serve the dramatic form, the structure was simplified, with only the present story line being followed: the growing of Kamara’s obsession on Tracy. Also, two characters (Kamara’s husband Tobechi and Marie) will not be seen, only spoken about.

CM: Who created the adaptation?
JS: Saaramaria Kuittinen wrote the stage adaptation, choosing to depict the story only in one location, so the action encapsulates the mundane and repetitive reality of Kamara’s life. Her dreams for love and a better life are held captive in this middle class suburban American living room –the emblem of the American dream. Consequently, her previous life, her identity and her journey, become more distant narrative, just the backdrop. Yet, Kamara holds the power over the story, because it’s through her articulation and her storytelling that we are let on board.

CM: Can you tell us about the cast and the characters they play?
JS: Shireenah Ingram plays Kamara. Kamara is an educated and married Igbo woman from Nigeria. She is strong and proud of her roots, which she manifests by having natural hair and keeping her accent strong. She longs to feel and seeks to fill the emptiness she has inside her.

Stephen Bradley plays Neil, a Jewish-American lawyer, married to Tracy, and father of Josh. Neil is an over protective, anxious parent whose ‘good-parenting’ style is somewhat stifling.

Natalya Martin plays Josh, a six-year-old boy, half African-American, half Jewish. He is withdrawn, but mature and intelligent for his age. He is stuck between a pedant and a bohemian artist. Kamara is a welcome relief for him.

Koral Neil plays Tracy, the African-American woman married to Neil. She is an unruly artist, a bohemian painter and mother to Josh.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Asme Productions? How did it come together, and what are its aims?
JS: Asme Productions was put together in 2016 out of necessity. As an actor I found it difficult to get roles that suited the kinds of stories I wanted to tell so I decided to set up a company and take control of my storytelling capabilities.

CM: Are there plans to take ‘On Monday Last Week’ further?
JS: There are no definitive plans as yet, however we are open to opportunities to take this piece to a bigger stage and a wider audience.

CM: What else do you have in the pipeline?
JS: I am currently working on two other projects, most immediately, ‘Absent’, a gritty, hard-hitting drama feature based on a true story, written and directed by Aysha Scott. It tells the tale of a jilted single mother who desperately attempts to get her callous baby-father to take responsibility for their son. But his resistance to fatherhood leads her on an angry path at risk of losing everything. It is a story about an issue which has a huge social impact.

The film will be shooting in a few months. We recently launched a campaign: ‘Tackling absent fathers’ in order to initiate a debate in parliament about making changes to the law surrounding absent fathers. Our Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to shoot the film will be launched in a couple of weeks.

‘On Monday Last Week’ is on at the Etcetera Theatre until 4 Feb, head this way to book your tickets.

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