Yesterday I had the opportunity to see "Tings Dey Happen," a solo show by Dan Hoyle. What an incredible performance. Not only did Hoyle capture the speech patterns of dozens of different characters, but he made each character distinct in their mannerisms and even tones of voice. So much so that when Hoyle came back onstage for the Q&A, I was surprised at how "American" his English was.
The play centers around Hoyle's experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria and gives a us a unique view of that culture and its people. What makes this show especially successful in presenting a view of Nigerian culture is that Hoyle places the audience in his shoes. What I mean is, the characters speak to the audience as if we were the Dan Hoyle, Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria. This allows the audience to experience the culture the way Hoyle himself experienced it, and has a far more powerful effect than if he had simply narrated the story as himself.
While some critics may frown on Hoyle's appropriating the voices of such a diverse group of characters so different from himself, I find that claim to be ridiculous. It's called acting, folks; that's the whole point. What is more, Hoyle treated his characters with respect and we can tell from his performance that he has a real affection both for the culture itself and for some of the individuals he met during his travels. If anything, it's some of the American characters who come off looking more like humorous caricatures than the African ones.
After the performance, we had a chance to sit in on a Q&A session with Hoyle, where he talked about developing the show and his experiences in Nigeria. That was probably my favorite part of the evening because we got a look at his creative process in putting together this performance.
All in all, it was a Wednesday evening well-spent.