Review: An Evening With An Immigrant, Traverse Theatre

An Evening with An Immigrant is an hour-and-a-half of stories, anecdotes and poems from Inua Ellams. He tells us of his experiences of childhood in Nigeria; of being forced to flee, and of his family’s struggle in emigrating safely to the UK. He gives us a night of art and valuable education.

Ellams’s writing is exceptional, and has a character and an incredible ability to paint vivid pictures for an audience. His words are full of love, nostalgia and strength. He transports us, through his poems, to Nigeria then Dublin then London. He creates, along the way, snapshots of his life and the challenges it has held that come together to point towards a bigger picture, revealing the discrimination at work in governments and communities.

He welcomes us to the evening as if we are old friends, and this sets the tone of the rest of the show. The whole thing feels like an intimate insight into his life and experiences.

Each poem which Ellams brings us is delivered with warmth, humour and emotion. His poems are original and brimming with life, and the way he speaks his carefully crafted words makes them all the more enchanting. He can make the everyday seem remarkable, but he also communicates his struggle with humanity and accessibility.

The emotion with which he tells of challenges such as the harassment his family received as immigrants, the stress which the application process caused for them, and his own struggles with his mental health and happiness as a result, is raw and moving. It is a privilege to be given such and honest insight into a life which is so often misrepresented.

He tells a story of immigration that is so often delivered to us by a far removed media and press, through anecdotes that show the insidious cruelty of the racism and unjust systems in the UK. It is a topic that is inherently political, and Ellams refuses to shy away from that fact. Although the Evening With an Immigrant he brings us is personal and entertaining, he also contains a powerful message within his words.