Emmanuel Bajiiji’s one-man play Candy Floss is a wonderful piece for this particular moment in time. As new students move to new cities and try to find their places among new people and communities. Bajiiji offers a relatable story reflecting on his life living in Oldham, and attempting to find his place in a new space.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a fresher who is Sri Lankan and is experiencing living with people from different cultures for the first time. It was also the first time she had lived in a house without someone who looked like her. It was a change for her, an adjustment.
This play beautifully encapsulates the cultural adjustments and nuances that occur when moving from two very different places. In the play, Emmanuel (nicknamed ‘Manny’ by his Mancunian friend Bill) tells us the story of how his life changed after he moved from Rwanda to Oldham.
At the start of the play, Bajiiji builds up a relationship with the audience by incorporating us into the play as he tells us that we are the audience who heard the speech he made in Oldham Town Hall in December 2009. Bajiiji addresses the audience like old friends. We reciprocated with warm faces.
This ease and familiarity created by Bajiiji is continued through his impeccable comedic timing and quick wit. Though the play lasts only one hour, Bajiiji sculpts a bond between himself and the audience, which makes the switch from the light-hearted and funny opening to the profound and sombre ending of the play all the more impactful.
Although the play’s frequent jumping through time can be jarring at times, this doesn’t interfere with the message Bajiiji is trying to convey.
The masterful sound design is woven into the play well, and Bajiiji’s dancelike movement is perfectly timed to the sounds and music amplified around him. A pulsing sound effect played intermittently throughout the performance somewhat ambiguously. This was until Bajiiji asked the audience to feel our own pulse, to remind us of who we are.
Before this, he asked us (as the audience of his speech at Oldham Town Hall) if we have changed since we sat down. This gave the audience an opportunity of reflection and the chance to really think about what we learnt through the play, which is ultimately a play that explores the question of identity.
During the play, Bajiiji asks himself whether it is possible to sit on the edge of a coin. Then, in turn asks whether it is possible to be two sides of the same coin, two identities at once.
The questions Bajiiji raised were interesting ones that I’ve thought about for many days since. The standing ovation left me assured that I was not alone in my admiration for Bajiiji. Candy Floss is not something I’ll forget anytime soon.