Tings Dey Happen
Dan Hoyle's solo piece about Nigerian oil politics is undercut by his minstrel-like performance and manic pacing.
The performance is based on a year that Hoyle spent in Nigeria studying oil politics on a Fulbright scholarship. The author never appears as himself within the play, instead taking on a succession of characters whom he met. He also portrays Sylvanus, a stage manager/narrator who enables Hoyle to comment upon both Nigeria and his own performance.
To his credit, Hoyle includes a wide range of perspectives from oil workers to politicians to prostitutes to militants. On the downside, the inclusion of so many characters makes it difficult to keep track of who's who, and more importantly where they all fit in the scheme of things. One of the reasons Hoyle has exaggerated his mannerisms to such a high degree is probably just to make sure that the people he's enacting are as distinct as possible from one another. He even takes a broad approach to his non-African characters, such as a Texan and several drunken Scots, who make repeat appearances in his narrative.
His most fully realized creation is a 23-year-old sniper named Okosi, who dreams of a better life, but is forced to accept that he'll never achieve it. Hoyle is also more subdued as Okosi, distinguishing him by means of a squint and facial tic, yet maintaining a grounded presence.
Despite the subject matter, there is humor within the script, even if not all of the jokes land. In particular, Hoyle uses Sylvanus as a kind of clown character who interrupts the action when things get too heavy by saying things like "You know I tell Dan, when people come to see a show about Africa, they want to bright colors, fine dancing, wonderful music. It's not just killing, kidnapping, prostitution, hey!"