Reviews of Dumle Kogbara

“With Daring, Originality and Optimism director Dumle Kogbara brings…. to the Theatre his version of the great Swedish writer/director, Ingmar Bergman’s deeply personal and revered work”.

……this raw and gripping portrayal of the psyche is treated with imagination by resident director Dumle Kogbara”.


PERSONA Stage adaptation based on Film by Ingmar Bergman
directed by Dumle Kogbara
Lucinda Forth and Cassandra Hodges
Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town,London
July/August 2007

WOYZECK by Georg Buchner
directed by Dumle Kogbara
Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town,London
July/August 2007

Camden New Journal : July 2007

ACT Provocateur’s double bill shines a light on different kinds of mental deterioration in Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck and a stage adaption of Persona, Ingmar Bergman’s intriguing 1966 film. Buchner based Woyzeck on a real story of a soldier who ends up murdering is common-law wife, Marie.The reason for his actions remain unclear in this production.Is he being driven mad by jealousy or is it an overwhelming feeling that being poor means he is powerless against the drumbeat of the upper classes?The adaptation of Persona is far more enjoyable.Powerfully acted with scant props and a neutral stage design, the piece is driven entirely by Lucinda Forth’s strong performance.She is Nurse Alma, employed to look after Elizabeth Vogler, an actress who suffers a mental breakdown and refuses to talk. So Alma talks and begins to take on the role of the patient as Vogler’s silence forces her to reveal more and more about herself. Much as in the film, the personalities of the nurse and the patient begin to merge.Are they the same person, trying to decide which persona to take on, or is this a study of female relationships and love?Bergman’s film translates surprisingly well onto the stage and this raw and gripping portrayal of the psyche is treated with imagination by resident director Dumle Kogbara.

THE SILENCE Stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman Film
directed by Dumle Kogbara
Lion and Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town,London 2007


“The Silence that is Golden”
by Film Editor for remotegoat on 30/10/07

This is play based on an Ingmar Bergman film, about two sisters who have been traveling together, and have stopped at hotel due to one who is seriously ill. Ester is the older, more intellectual sister, whose fear of death clouds her relationship with her younger, more sensual sister, whom Ester is physically attracted. In the original film, a young boy, who it is not clear which sister is the natural mother, accompanies them. However this theatre interpretation replaces the boy with a daughter, depicted with such innocence by Lucy Joannides. The director, Dumle Kogbara, has substituted all the male roles in the film, with female characters, which modern twist to the study of female relationships jealousy, intimacy, loneliness and obsessive desire.

At first the performances seem ridged, but as it progressed you realise that this is the point. This is a story about family, secrets and relations that are trough with difficulties. These two sisters who it seems used to be close, are not able to communicate and understand one another anymore. The first few minutes, there are not words spoken. In fact there is very sparse dialogue throughout the whole play, which can be attributed to its origins as a film. Instead there is silence. This story is not so much about what is said, but what is not spoken. Those awkward silences, that you think should not be the case amongst people that know each other. Further they are unable to express their emotions to each other, despite craving for emotional warmth, they only display affection to the young girl.

These moments were well played and I liked how many questions to ask and it does not provide the easy answers. being from a family of all girls, this retelling allowed me to relate much stronger to the characters. However its message does not only apply to female relationships. Sometimes the silence, although oppressive, does allow one to protect inner desires, which is better to accept, that they will never be realized. But again that is just my personal take on it. I am sure others in the audience will read it differently. As it states beautifully in the program “please take or discard what you want from the silence”

THREE SISTERS by Anton Chekhov

directed by Dumle Kogbara
Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town,London (March 2008)

Reviews -Three Sisters – Act Provocatuer international, at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre

“This is absolutely terrific.Brilliant, confident performances from every cast member, matched with super-tight direction and staging. Don’t worry about the “Fringe” classification, get along and see this gem”.

3rd April 2008,
Samantha Spurgin

Before I explain to you anything about the play itself I really have to paint you a picture of the director Dumle Kogbara. This incredibly energetic and intelligent man seems to be running the whole show! And I mean that literally – from box office to stage manager to god knows what else. This guy is fantastically eccentric and very passionate about all aspects of his production of Three Sisters.

Being so deeply and vividly in touch and moved by the play himself, I was really excited to see how this energy had connection had translated itself onto the stage.

I was a little disappointed with the first half of this production. I felt that for the most part, the energy was lacking, and with the exception of a few of the actors I failed to really connect with them. This being said, there were some really beautiful moments, both in terms of the characters and the staging and direction, with lots of real picturesque snapshots woven in to the seamless flow of conversation.

In particular I loved the use of the real windows in the room, it really helped me as an audience member connect with Irina’s desperate longing to go back to her beloved Moscow, and also the entrapment of Masha and Olga.

Themes of exile, entrapment and homecoming were themes that Dumle really felt were the relate-able and timeless core of this play. I think he and his actors achieved this connection really well and it was certainly those emotions, I left the Theatre with intact.

The play really picked up in the third and forth act, and there were some really fantastic scenes and despite a mixed bag of acting, some really great performances shone through.

Sonna Cadman played a lovely and high spirited Irina and she skillfully showed the ‘coming of age/realisation of reality’ well, though I felt that occasionally her physicalisation was over balletic, and this distracted me from her very watchable and likable performance.

Natasha – Kim Seybold was great fun to watch and gave a real life and energy to the play, and Harry Attwell was a humourous and sensitive Kulygin.
But Special mention should go to Roxaneh Renton for her spotless performance of Olga, and to Julian Bird – Chebutykin, who really was the sole actor who gave the sense of truth and connection that Checkov wrote for, His scene in Act Three was breathtaking and for me his performance in all, the highlight of the play.

Overall the Three Sisters is really worth watching. It has some beautiful moments and a lot of heart. And really, its worth going just to experience the pub downstairs – Almost more drama going on in there than upstairs! – Trust Me

Camden New Journal April 2008

by Josh Loeb

An honest take on the challenge of Checkov

ACT Provocateur are nothing if not ambitious.Under artistic directors Victor Sobchak and resident director Dumle Kogbara the company has staged a series of difficult plays with commendable casts, and thankfully this production is no exception.

The play, part of the Lion and the Unicorn’s Chekhov season, is about the lives of aristocratic sisters who are originally from Moscow but now live in a provincial backwater. From the outset it lays bare the regrets and yearnings of these women via naturalistc action and a simple script, evoking the decline of the Russian nobility in the late 19th century.

In Act I this sometimes melancholic mood is sweetened by parodies of recognisable character from Chekov’s time. We meet middle sister Masha’s nerdy husband Kulygin, foul-smelling brainy upstart Solyony, and world weary doctor Chebutykin. In later acts the play takes a darker turn. The girls’ brother sells their house to repay his debts, forcing them to confront the harsh reality that they will marry not for love but out of duty, and that they will never return to their longed-for Moscow.

The modern costumes are wonderful and help convey a sense of the character, particularly the vain, whorish Natasha.

As the director says, this play has “sorrows, joys and frustrations small and large”. While some will no doubt find this heavy going, Three Sisters’ effortless quality makes it easy to enjoy and, far from being a turn-off, the characters’ increasing self-pity makes them all the more believable.

Refreshingly, this is not a play that seeks to trick the audience but one which strives to be as honest as possible. In short, commendable and well worth watching.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE by Sidney Michaels
directed by Dumle Kogbara

Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town,London(2008)
Starring Florence Kuhfeld & Daniel McLoughlin
A Stylish,Sexy Pyschological Thriller

Review of Tricks of the Trade

TRICKS OF THE TRADE by Sidney Michaels
At the Lion and Unicorn until March 9th ****

This play by award winning playwright and screen writer Sidney Michaels was produced in New York in 1980 for nine previews and one single performance! This production is from a revised version written in 1983 and adapted and directed by Dumle Kogbara. Whatever happened in the original – which involved four actors including George C Scott as Dr Browning, this is now an interesting, many layered two hander. It is amazing that – to my knowledge – it has not been performed before as it is a fascinating, exploration into relationship psychology and the gender war as well as being a riveting thriller.

Diana Woods, an elegant young woman enters the swanky consulting room of Dr Browning, clinical psychotherapist. She is neurotic, she feels lonely, alienated; she despises her parents who are paying for her treatment. She appears to be an over privileged poor little rich girl – a kind of Paris Hilton. He persuades her to take a job and pay for her own treatment. They begin to meet regularly – three times a week. It seems at first like a normal patient doctor relationship until she starts making enquiries about him and finds out facts about his life and he is forced to reveal things about himself. From now on they exchange confidences – like his relationship with his ex wife who is a Christian Scientist and the fact that she is intending to marry her gay boss. The situation is no longer professional but highly sexually charged. Very slowly one becomes aware that neither of these people are what they seem or profess to be as they become more and more enmeshed in lies and deceptions. The sessions go on for almost a year and the tension never lets up for a moment until the denouement which is unexpected but wholly satisfying.

There is terrific chemistry between these two actors.

Daniel McLoughlin is perfect casting as the cynical, teasing Doctor, who displays vulnerability by playing a totally believable drunk scene (though even that may or may not be real). He delivers Michaels’ one liners with relish. “I’m a crossword in a paper full of bad news. People are pleased to see me.”

Florence Kuhfeld fits the role of troubled sex goddess, making great play of her totteringly high heels that clatter as she paces across the wooden floor. She wears deliberately sexual garments, split skirts that show flashes of suspenders holding up her black stockings. From the first moment we are aware that she is out to entrap him. Dumle Kogbara has done a great job of adapting and directing this play and – knowing the ending – one would be interested to see it again. Sadly this was the final performance, but let us hope it will reappear soon.


AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus
directed by Dumle Kogbara
Set in West Africa.Part of African Theatre Festival at Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town,London
Sept/Oct 2008

Review of Agamemnon

“Greek tragedy with African twist”
by Nina Romain for remotegoat on 30/09/08

Director Dumle Kogbara puts a classic tragedy in a modern African context, with Aeschylus’ tale. In Greek mythology, Agamemnon, husband of Clytaemnestra, was the commander of the Achaeans in the Trojan War when Helen, wife of Menelaus, was abducted by Paris of Troy.

The play starts with Agamemnon (Dempsey Bovell) now away leading the Greek expedition for the last decade, leaving a Watchlady (Patrice Edwards) waiting for the signal that Troy has been captured.

The modern-day setting is assisted by costume designer Shana Mongwanga (who also plays Chorus) who makes the costumes the sets, by dressing the actors in a blaze of primary colours in traditional African clothing. This visual riot is offset with an almost-bare stage, making it even more vivid.

Yrsa Daley-Ward makes her striking Clytaemnestra a statuesque femme fatale, plotting to murder her husband while taking his cousin Aegisthus (Darren Oderinde) as a lover. She is well-matched by Keshia Watson as Cassandra, who was brought back by Agamemnon and the prophet whose fate was to be always right but never believed. She edges in and out of hysteria as the others try vainly to sooth her as she predicts the future.

The accents are varied, mainly accurate but edging in and out of pure Home Counties, and the action a little slow in the first half, then suddenly accelerating when on his return home, Agamemnon is murdered by Clytemnestra.

At this point, the audience realises it would have been rewarding to see both Agamemnon and Aegisthus given a larger part to play. However, this original and thought-provoking adaptation is very much the women’s play – and is all the better for it.

This new setting of Aeschylus’ tale still has the themes of love, disloyalty and power-struggles remaining universal and timeless.

Stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman Film
directed by Dumle Kogbara
Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town (January 2008)

It is All About Me”
by Saul Reichlin for remotegoat on 14/01/08

With daring, originality and optimism, adaptor/director Dumle Kogbara brings to the tiny Lion and Unicorn Theatre his version of the great Swedish writer/director, Ingmar Bergman’s deeply personal and revered work. Autumn Sonata was Bergman’s chamber cinema at its exquisite peak.

The original story is telescoped here into a collection of naked exchanges, some verbal, some written, all painful, in which the intensely personal drama of the troubled relationship between a self obsessed concert pianist mother, played by Annie Labura, and her emotionally starved daughter, Eva, played Faye Billing, is finally faced head on. It had to happen, it seems. The beautifully autumnal Chopin and Beethoven music, such an intrinsic part of the characters’ lives, plays its part in the story and in the drama.

Miss Billings brings to Eva a sense of intense melancholy and of a wasted life which invokes a special mood of vulnerability in her, and makes possible the awkward revelations between her and the simmering, repressed Charlotte of Miss Labura. The only thing the two women share is the bottle which loosens their tongues, and it is an irony that until then their words seemed more for their own benefit than the other’s. But that, after all, is what is at the heart of their struggle.

The other characters in the story are either heard in a disembodied narration by Albert Clack (Eva’s husband) or simply not included, except by reference, but in this play about a mother’s visit from hell, there is plenty to keep one entertained.
Scheduled to be part of a double bill with Celebration Concerto, Kogbara’s own writer/director debut, an actor’s illness meant that this half of the evening’s fare will be available from next week.


A Moving Portrayal of the Parent-Child Relationship                                                                       by Sarah Peacey

Adapted from the 1978 Ingmar Bergman film of the same name, Autumn Sonata is an intense portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship.                                                 Annie Labura is excellent as Charlotte, the glamorous mother who has not seen her daughter for the past seven years while she has been successfully touring as a concert pianist.                                                                                                                                                    Faye Billing is moving as Eva, the dowdy and neglected daughter, and has a particularly nice line in bitter anger.Initially excited and falling into her childhood pattern of eagerness to please her mother, Eva’s mood quickly descends into an outpouringof long suppressed resentmentconcerning her upbringing.There ensues a psychological battle where both reveal much about their feelings towards each other and their lives in general.                                                     Although fairly bleak, apart from a final note of optimism at the end, this is an absorbing and insightful look at the way in which parents and children relate to each other.



Death and The Maiden

An imprisoning night of theatre..”
by David Phipps-Davis for remotegoat on 23/06/08

Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden is a moral thriller about a woman, Paulina, who believes that a stranger who comes to her home is the doctor who, under a military dictatorship, tortured and raped her many years before. Unlike The Collector, this is excellently written and directed (by the resident director of the Lion and Unicorn, Dumle Kogbara). Alike to The Collector, however, is that it has one blazing star performance at its core – that of Amy Barnes as Paulina. True, her opening contortions to the strains of Schubert were completely over the top. True, she looks far too young to be referring to anything happening fifteen years in the past. But also true is the fact that she gave a brilliant performance running the gamut of emotions – this is a major talent to be watched!

Barnes is given good support by Andrew McDonald as her husband, Gerardo, though he could have lain off the projecting a bit – the venue is tiny and he was, at times, deafening. However, he comes into his own when the Doctor accuses him of not being a real husband – you really believe he might cut his balls off! As the doctor, James Clossick was weaker than the other two, giving a somewhat bland performance in what could be an equally compelling role. However, this certainly didn’t ruin what was otherwise an excellent piece of theatre and respect must go to Clossick for remaining on stage so long tied to a chair, with his mouth stuffed with panties and taped shut.

Statements After an arrest Under The Immorality Act/The Island

“important plays about our freedom”
by Michael Spring for remotegoat on 02/10/08
These are important plays. Not because the tragedy of Africa continues to find new and more desperate ways to unwind as each decade goes by. More because we need to keep reminding ourselves of the signs and smells of oppression and injustice. The similarities are remarkable whether you take as your model France after the revolution, Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany or the old South Africa, where these two short plays are set.

In Statements After An Arrest, Dani McCallum plays Frieda, the white librarian who falls in love with a black schoolteacher who is trying to better himself. Today, in Britain, we might just say, so what? But in the South Africa of a few years ago, this was a crime, part of the ridiculous criminal code that tried to legislate for the separate development of races.

It is the small-mindedness of the bureaucracy that continues to amaze, even today, something which is brought into sharp focus by the statements of Detective du Preez (Mary Tynan).

The second play, the Island, describes a slice of the life of two long-term inmates of the infamous prison on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent so many wasted years. There is, ironically, a lot of comedy here, and you really get a feeling for the closeness of the prisoners Winston (Kyle Turlunch) and John (Chris Rochester).

In both productions, the performances all round are solid and effective, rather than amazing, and Dumle Kogbara’s direction is understated, so there is possibly more of an even texture across the pieces than there might be. That is to nitpick though. These are moving dramas.

Go and see them and remind yourself why we should never take democracy and freedom for granted.

8 WOMENStage adaptation of Francois Ozon Film, Huit Femmes
directed by Dumle Kogbara
May/June 2008

“Dark musical-comedy-who dunnit..”
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 03/06/08

8 WOMEN – a stage adaptation by Dumle Kogbara of the Francois Ozon film
at Lion and Unicorn until June 15

Based on a play by Robert Thomas, this was made into a movie in 2001 starring four generations of glamorous French actresses. Set in the nineteen fifties, it seems at first that it is a conventional who dunnit, with a snowbound house, a severed telephone wire and a car that won’t start.

A man(Marcel) lies upstairs in his room with a dagger in his back – slaughtered by an unknown hand. There is no access to the house, nor can any of the occupants leave it. But here comes the twist – all the people who remain stranded in the house are female – the eight women of the title. All have a powerful motive, all suspect each other, all have a deeply hidden secret and all are inclined to burst into song at unexpected moments. There is no detective – after all the telephone wires are cut so the police cannot be summoned. It’s up to the ladies to solve the crime themselves. As they do so, the play turns from a whodunit to a black psychological comedy. As such, it encompasses many emotions and conflicts as the women attempt to relate to each other. But, finally, all is revealed without ever losing the sight of the glamour, the elegance and sophistication of the protagonists. It is a highly enjoyable and engaging movie.

Dumle Kogbara has created his script not from the original play, but from the French film using the English subtitles as guidance. Rather than use Levy’s score, he takes the theme from Mozart’s piano concerto no 17 to underscore and has cleverly fitted the lyrics to well known standard tunes – Every Time we Say goodbye, Autumn Leaves, Quizas Quizas Quizas and so on. It works pretty well, but of course it would be preferable either to use the original or have new tunes.

He has found a cast that more or less checks with the original film stars. Sylvia Andon looks lovely as Gaby (Catherine Deneuve) the wife of the deceased, and her mother, Mamy, is played by Jean Apps, filling the shoes of the queen of post war French cinema Danielle Darrieux. As Gaby’s two daughters, Suzon and Catherine, Jenna Brook and Jayne Dickinson sing, dance and act with great vivacity and Florence Kuhfeld dons heavy disguise to play Augustine, Gaby’s neurotic sister.(Isabelle Huppert).

Particularly impressive is Kate Walsh as Chanel, the mysterious cook who sings an extremely poignant song “So not to live alone” with enormous pathos and expertise and Katharine Innes has the charisma of a young Brigitte Bardot as the sexy maid Louise, (played in the film by Emmanuelle Beart). I get the feeling that Jenny Mortier in the Fanny Ardant role as Pierette, Marcel’s sister, is a little out of her depth, as she makes no attempt to sing her bravura song about living free and I think it is a production fault opening the play with her burlesque dance routine, which detracts a little from the glamour of the whole.

Nevertheless an enjoyable pastiche, loads of cynical fun and well worth tripping along to Kentish Town.

LA RONDE by Arthur Schnitzler
directed by Dumle Kogbara
Lion & Unicorn Theatre,Kentish Town (2007)

Camden New Journal : July 2007

The Review – THEATRE by AOIFE NI DHALAIGH Published: 31 May 2007

No flesh please, we’re fringe

Lion and UnicornARTHUR Schnitzler’s famous work is based on 10 interlocking love stories – or, rather, ‘love’ because this play is about sex. Desire, seduction and the disparity between pre- and post-coital conversations are set out in a series of short sketches connected by the theme of lust and its outcome.
The result is a disjointed structure, with no plot as such, and a play driven entirely by its characters.
This is director Dumle Kogbara’s second stab at La Ronde, and he coaxes some engrossing performances from the young cast, notably Anna Blades as the delightfully manipulative wife and Mathew Delgaram Nejad as the overblown poet.
However, there is no sense of period to contextualise the attitudes of men towards women, which causes confusion.
Also, in a work so concerned with the flesh, the decision not to have the actors strip fully lessens the ‘realness’ of the play’s world.
However, in a theatre of this size – with those on stage prancing around in underwear – it can feel like you’ve accidentally wandered into someone’s bedroom, so perhaps this was a wise directorial decision to prevent traumatising the audience with close-range naked cavorting.
Act Provocateur is the resident company of the Lion and Unicorn and it shows in its confident use of the small theatre.
The atmosphere was spoiled slightly by music drifting up from the pub below, but the sheer energy of the performers was enough to let minor quibbles be forgotten and savour the production.

Camden New Journal:The Review – THEATRE by ANDREW JOHNSON Published: 8 March 2007

Provocative monologues

Dario Fo
Lion and Unicorn
Directed by Dumle Kogbara(2 Monologues)
IT is good to see these monologues performed and Act Provocateur International are to be applauded for taking them on.
Written by controversial Italian playwrights Franca Rame and Dario Fo, these monologues, are about seven women who are oppressed either by society, menfolk, themselves or all of the above.
They are ably co-directed by Scarlett Comnas, who is only 18 and just out of South Hampstead School, and the more experienced Dumle Kogbara, with a relevance and humour that makes this a diverting evening.
The monologues, each performed by a different actress, worked best when the physicality of the character came through. Serena Cowdy as the Whore, Karla Mikenna as the Housewife and Yetunde Oduwole as Medea deserve particular mention.
More attention could have been paid to the set design, which seemed to lack, however. For example, a window exposed to the street, while used, for one monologue, proved distracting and broke the spell of the theatre space.