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Would you send your child abroad if they got in to trouble?

PLAYWRIGHT: Ade Solanke

FOLLOWING SELL-out shows in 2012 at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, the award-winning drama, Pandora's Box, is embarking on a UK tour.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Nigeria Prize for Literature, Pandora's Box looks at a common diaspora dilemma - is education better at home or away?

In the production, a British-Nigerian mother on holiday with her streetwise son, is in turmoil. Should she leave him in a strict Nigerian boarding school, or return him to the battlefields of inner London?

Last month, the British-African family drama was performed in Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Birmingham and Sheffield.

The London leg of the tour kicked off yesterday (Oct 8) at the Millfields Arts Centre in north London, and will head to Catford Broadway Theatre tomorrow (Oct 10).

Before the Catford staging, there will be a special panel discussion, Fight or Flight: Educating British African kids.
This will be an open, panel-led discussion on the subject of taking UK African kids back to Africa or the Caribbean for education.

Panelists include MP Diane Abbott and Richard Taylor OBE.

Life & Styles discusses the play with writer Ade Solanke.

The play has a London focus. Why did you want to take it on a national tour?
What I discovered from the London shows was that people resonated with the material. It made me question ‘how far does this connect to experiences outside of London?’ It made me very curious as to what the feedback would be. That’s why it’s been really important that I’ve been [going to] all the shows. I’ve been able to meet people which has been a real privilege as not many writers get to come face to face with their audience.


DILEMMA: Ade Solanke’s Pandora's Box looks at a common diaspora issue - is education better at home or away?

How would you describe Pandora’s Box?
It’s a comedy drama about a serious issue. If I’m honest, at a first reading a few years ago, people were rolling with laughter, and I was like ‘what? Why is everyone laughing?’ I didn’t think I was a funny writer. It’s a great feeling when you see an audience exploding with laughter, and knowing they’ve connected with the piece. But even though it’s amusing, it’s still troubling.

That’s the main theme of the play?
It’s a dilemma. The play was basically born with me asking the question – is it the right thing to send your child away if they’re in trouble? At the surface of it, of course it’s not. You should stand by them, you should look after them and work with them. But one of the problems parents are facing is literally to do with the environment their children are in. And unless you get them out of that environment, there’s not much chance that their behavior will change.

Was it inspired by a personal experience?
Pandora’s Box was inspired by a good friend of mine, who sent her son to Nigeria. She told me ‘if it’s not this, I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ After two years in Nigeria, he came back transformed. I was curious as to what was so different over there.

Did you always want to be a playwright?
I actually started off as a journalsit for The Voice where I used to write arts reviews. I studied English literature and drama at The University of Sheffield and then creative writing at Goldsmiths. I then went to film school in Los Angeles where I had writing class with [Scandal writer] Shonda Rhimes.

Pandora's Box - London dates
Oct 22 at Thameside Theatre, Thurrock, 7:30
Oct 23 at Broadway Theatre, Barking, 7:30pm
Oct 24-25 at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Tottenham, 7:30pm
Oct 27-29th Oct at CLF Arts Cafe/ Bussey Building, Peckham, 3pm
Oct 29-Nov 1 at The Arcola, Dalston, 8pm

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