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The Fishermen

"One of the most surreal but gratifying experiences of my life so far was seeing the stage adaptation of my debut novel, The Fishermen, at the sold-out HOME in Manchester. When New Perspectives first floated the idea of having only two characters play an entire family of 8, I thought they were mad. But they pulled it off - big time, and with the talented two-man cast, the playwright, the director, and crew, the final product is, frankly, a theatrical marvel."
Chigozie Obioma, 2018
Chigozie Obioma was born in 1986 in Akure, Nigeria. He has lived in Nigeria, Cyprus and Turkey and currently resides in the United States, where he teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His first novel, The Fishermen, is winner of the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award for Fiction, an NAACP Image Award for Debut Author, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (Los Angeles Times Book Prizes); and was a Finalist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Translation rights sold in twenty-six languages and The Fishermen has been adapted into an award-winning stage play. His stories and articles have appeared in many publications including The Millions, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guardian and New York Times. In Guardian, Eileen Battersby reviewed his second novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, (Little, Brown, 2019): "Few contemporary novels achieve the seductive panache of Obioma’s heightened language, with its mixture of English, Igbo and colourful African-English phrases, and the startling clarity of the dialogue. The story is extreme; yet its theme is a bid for mercy for that most fragile of creatures – a human.”

Jack McNamara in conversation with Chigozie Obioma recorded by HOME via FacebookLIVE

Chigozie Obiama was just 29 when his debut novel about brothers torn apart by a prophecy was published in 2015. The book was a global success, announcing him as a major new voice on the international literary scene. As soon as I read it I saw glimpses of a play. Yet given what hot property the book was, I never expected its celebrated young author to be so receptive and generous to a touring theatre company on the other side of the word wanting to turn it into a stage play.

From the beginning, the vision for the play differed considerably from the book. Whilst the novel is a family saga populated by many characters, the play boils the action down to just two people. We still meet the other characters, but only through the prism of two brothers who have lived through the story. I am fascinated with the idea that siblings hold traces of their wider family within them. An encounter between siblings can become a confrontation with one’s parents or other siblings; a notion that gives this play its particular dramatic engine.

Gbolahan Obisesan has dived into the novel and found the play its own voice. Gbolahan grew up in Nigeria until the age of ten, which is also the age of the book’s protagonist. He knows this world intimately and has captured its language in all its idiosyncrasy.

Our rehearsal room has been a place of complete collaboration, with two actors, Michael Ajao and Valentine Olukoga, building the show with myself and Associate Director, Angharad Jones, from the ground up. We hope our distilled stage version captures the true spirit of the book and draws out its dramatic core. The dark story of the Agwu family has been an exciting place to live and we are delighted to be able to finally bring it to audiences, live for the first time.

Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel The Fishermen "an Igbo version of a tragedy." Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of "the paradox that is Nigeria."


New Perspectives is an East Midlands' based touring theatre company, specialising in bringing new work to rural and community audiences. Through an annual programme of original adaptations, rare revivals and new writing, we aim to bring live theatre that is diverse, affordable and accessible into the heart of wide-ranging communities, as well as to regional, national and international venues.  
Our productions are testament to the fact that rural theatre is as relevant, challenging and vital as theatre made for any other environment. Our participatory projects, career defining training and mentoring opportunities for emerging regional talent and rural touring scheme Northants Touring Arts makes tangible difference to people where they live.

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