Flying the Brighton flag in the West End’s Choir of Man

Olugbenga Adelekan as The Pub Bore in The Choir of Man. Pic by Richard DavenportOlugbenga Adelekan as The Pub Bore in The Choir of Man. Pic by Richard Davenport
Olugbenga Adelekan as The Pub Bore in The Choir of Man. Pic by Richard Davenport
Two cast members are flying the flag for Brighton in the West End production of the Olivier-nominated The Choir of Man, now in its second sell-out year at The Arts Theatre in London.

The new 2024 company includes music producer and bassist from the Mercury Prize-nominated band Metronomy Olugbenga Adelekan, who has lived in Brighton for the past 12 years. Olugbenga is making his West End debut as The Pub Bore. The cast also includes Robert Godfrey as The Beast. Robert studied in Brighton in his young adult years and previously performed in The Choir of Man in the Sydney Opera House. The show is set in The Jungle, the best pub in the world as a cast of nine guys combine “beautiful harmonies, first-rate tap dance and foot-stomping singalongs to celebrate the power of community”, with hits from artists such as Queen, Paul Simon, Adele, Guns & Roses and Katy Perry in an uplifting celebration of friendship and feel-good entertainment.

Robert said: “I did an audition back in 2020 and I've been with the company ever since. The show is about the importance of community and communal spaces, the pub being our selective preference here. There is an overall theme of men’s mental health and just about finding a safe space in which you can communicate.” Olugbenga added: “People think that they're coming along for a lovely sing-along but actually they're getting something a lot more than that. It's about the community and how these characters come together.”

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It's about noticing each other too – how it might be significant if one particular character knocks back his pint in one go whereas for another character it’s purely what you would expect of them. It's about seeing the changes and noticing the potential alarm bells. Part of the point is that post-pandemic there are fewer of these spaces available where men can come together and look after each other.

As Robert says: “People are becoming more open, particularly the younger generation coming through. They are all more open minded and greater able to express their feelings or at least that's what I have observed but there was that mentality of the stiff upper lip and being stoic in your gender.”

Olugbenga agrees: “I'm a little bit older than some of the people in the cast. I feel like the older generation and comparing my personal life, the fact is that if I get together with friends of a certain age we will meet up and go and do some sort of activity whether it's a football match or whatever. But my wife and her friends go for food and they talk for three or four hours. I think women are better at building that kind of community and supporting each other emotionally. Men do offer that support but we're not so explicit and sometimes it feels like that if you're going through a hard time, it can be more difficult to make that connection. But I do think it's changing. The conversations around mental health seem to happen a bit more readily.”

Olugbenga added: “I am from Nigeria originally and I've lived in the UK since I was 15. My wife and I lived in London and we fancied a change and we said we would rent for a year in Brighton and now 12 years later we're still there. I just love it.”

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