Writing a review of a play, on for one night and no longer running, is not the most sensible thing to do, but in this case it is important.
Just an Ordinary Lawyer is a brilliant, one-person piece of theatre. Presented as part of Black History Month, the play is written, performed and sung by Tayo Aluko. It is a mesmerizing hour and a half, about the life of Tunji Sowande, a Nigerian lawyer who became Britain’s first black judge in 1978. An unlikely candidate for such a barrier-breaking achievement, Tunji would rather indulge in non-political activities such as watching cricket and singing gospel songs. Some fascinating facts on Test Matches and freedom songs are interspersed with commentaries on the activities (and deaths) of racial rights activists such as Martin Luther King. We go from the passion for sports to the passion for equal rights in a seamless commentary. And are the two very different, after all?
The play covers the decades of the sixties and seventies, so there is a great deal of social justice action going on. Aluko is adept at the dramatic pause, and the subtle change in tone and facial expression, as befits the mood of the moment.
A word about his singing voice – beautiful! One of Aluko’s plays is Call Mr. Robeson, and I could hear Paul’s resonant baritone in the background. If it seems odd to have a piano in an office on stage, then that is not noticeable, nor is the presence of the pianist Karel Roessingh.
If education is the solution to the problems of race relationships, then Just an Ordinary Lawyer makes a huge contribution to that education. Showing is always better than telling, and this play shows us how to be better than we are, in very many ways. And the packed house at the Metro Studio Theatre on Feb. 2 most certainly agreed, and applauded appropriately.
A brief note appeared at the bottom of the information sheet we were given, indicating forthcoming appearances of Tayo Aluko in a variety of locations on both sides of the Atlantic. Therefore many other people from all walks of life will have an opportunity to be informed, educated and entertained by this very talented Nigerian from Liverpool.
Kudos to Intrepid Theatre and the BC Black History Awareness Society for bringing this thought-provoking play to Victoria.