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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: The Perfect Immigrant

Samuel Yakura in The Perfect Immigrant. Image Simon Lazewski


In recent decades, as Ireland became attractive as a place to immigrate to rather than just emigrate from, cross cultural wires often got tangled. Between céad míle fáilte and overt racism, a messy middle ground emerged as Ireland set about negotiating a new normal. For example, an Irish person asking you where you're from might be racist, but it might also be because it's the primary way Irish people, Dubliners in particular, have always got to know people, for specific cultural reasons. Or what about when an immigrant, claiming allegiance to 200 million Nigerians, points out there are only 5 million Irish who could be decimated with no effort at all, then asks who's really the minority? A barbed joke or a tasteless insult? One thing's for sure, it's the very reason plays like The Perfect Immigrant by Samuel Yakura are crucial. Tackling head on perceptions and misconceptions in a safe, shared, theatrical experience. Helping highlight conscious and unconscious bias.

Owing less to Wole Soyinka or Ola Rotimi so much as Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd, Nigerian born playwright Yakura bumbles into the theatre executing a suitcase routine, his silent entrance pure vaudeville. Effecting a Brechtian distance with some projected text, which becomes a recurring device, along with a costly number of peppers, Yakura establishes a relationship with the audience with beguiling ease. Standing on four pallets, he manipulates three suitcases, along with endless phone calls, as the story of Levi emerges. A young man studying for his Masters in Engineering in Trinity, but who really wants to be a poet. Throw in a domineering, emotionally unavailable father, and a passionate mother, and we're on familiar ground covered many times over as the passively aggressive son ignores his father as soon as he's free of his clutches. The inevitable ending seen coming from a mile off from very early on.

Samuel Yakura in The Perfect Immigrant. Image Simon Lazewski

In between, Levi makes astute observations on the similarities and differences between Irish and Nigerian culture. His mother's magical cooking, the horrors of Lyca and trekking to Lucan on a pathetic excuse for public transport. How he has no craic, loves Irish women who pay on dates, doesn’t like being referred to as a minority and loves to dance even if the Irish can't. Yet what elevates The Perfect Immigrant above being a modest, observational comedy routine is Yakura's marvellous spoken word segments. Extraordinary performance poems coated in twee music that detracts from them, suggesting they need the emotional support. They don't. Indeed, don't be surprised if, as you leave, you find yourself looking around to see if they happen to be on sale. For Yakura crafts insight with ease.

Under Katie O'Halloran's direction, everything is kept simple and easy, O'Halloran making sure to give Yakura plenty of room to breathe.The result is less a play or, thankfully, a lecture, so much as a one-to-one encounter. Yakura's greatest strengths being his honesty and presence, which makes the entire audience feel connected. And he’s right. There is no perfect immigrant. Just as there is no perfect, pre-packed response to immigration. We are all figuring out this new normal together. Or we should be. Otherwise racists will win by claiming that middle ground in the name of being wronged. The best way to stop them is for us to talk, listen, learn. And share. You'd be surprised what you can learn by sharing. Making The Perfect Immigrant the perfect place to start.

The Perfect Immigrant by Samuel Yakura runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival at The New Theatre until September 17.

For more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2022


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