My Father and Other Superheroes is a one-hour, one-man show written and performed by Nick Makoha. With recent events such as Hit the Ode and Poets’ Place, it is no secret that Birmingham has well and truly come alive with spoken word. It is very fitting therefore that mac should not only host but also produce this fantastic piece of theatre. Described aptly as ‘one man’s honest revelation of how pop culture raised him in the absence of his father’, Makoha bravely confronts his personal struggle with abandonment and, in turn, questions the role of fatherhood in society. First and foremost, Makoha’s performance was raw and captivating. His characterisation was consistently authentic, whether he was playing The Incredible Hulk, his eleven-year old self, or his Ugandan mother. Even with the complete absence of props, the BMX he was riding or the baby he was holding seemed completely tangible.
Benji Reid’s direction was apparent in Makoha’s excellent use of physical theatre. His transformation from child, to superhero, to adult and back again was as engaging as some of the dances Reid has choreographed throughout his reputable career. Throughout the performance Makoha took the audience on a global journey: from a London-estate to Kenya, to the desert of Saudi Arabia. With minimal effects, no scenery and just one man in an average shirt and tie, making this believable must have been no easy task. To his credit, however, the audience remained wholly invested in Makoha, both as a storyteller and a character.
At one point Makoha re-enacted a scene from a Superman film, as he daringly walks along the edge of a building. Although on stage he was only a few inches off the ground, his physicality, and the plumes of smoke billowing from off-stage, effectively captured the ‘reality’ of such a scene. Indeed Reid’s masterful use of staging and lighting successfully created the other-worldly sense of the ‘Superhero’ genre, whilst avoiding cliché and slapstick acting. Even before one watches the play, the cathartic nature of the piece is clearly evident. Telling such a personal story could have run the risk of alienating an audience that might not entirely relate to him. However, Makoha’s use of humour and emotion, forced the audience to move from observing to psychologically engaging with the piece with highly successful results.
In the post-show discussion, both the writer and director gave a moving insight into what they had set out to achieve. As fathers themselves, they discussed how this was as much a play about learning what it is to be a father as well as letting go of past resentment. Nick Makoha considered the poignant saying, ‘if a child survives childhood, they can survive the rest of their life’, and it was clear that this was a story that touched the audience members in many different ways. In playing witness to Makoha’s personal quest for forgiveness and redemption, the audience were called upon to think about what it means to love your parents, not just as hero-figures, but as adults and humans who are liable to make mistakes. It is a story that remains extremely relevant to society today and will thus continue to bear value and importance.
Words by Elisha Owen