Review: ARABITCH, VAULT Festival

ARABITCH at VAULT Festival is the queer Arab clown show you didn’t know you needed, and comes with some top Arab pop recommendations

“There aren’t any Lebanese lesbian bookclubs around”

You don’t get many queer Arab clown shows to the pound so that alone (along with one of the best titles of this year’s VAULT Festival) makes ARABITCH an intriguing prospect. And as a work in progress, it certainly has the ingredients for a powerful exploration of intersectional gender politics, specifically how to resolve being both a member of the LGBTQ+ community and Arabic. 

Writer/performer Sara Dawood does this through a wide-ranging hour which feels like its heart lies in cabaret, an aura well-cultivated in Serafina Cusack’s production and the intimacy of the Pit. Participatory game shows sit alongside spoken word interludes, confessional coming out stories are followed by exuberant dance, there’s even a measure of dragged-up time-travelling body-swapping. Continue reading “Review: ARABITCH, VAULT Festival”

Review: Blue Departed, VAULT Festival

Serafina Cusack’s beautifully poetic Blue Departed at the VAULT Festival marks her out as a writer to watch

“Some people are better off dead”

There’s a memorably dizzying poetry to Serafina Cusack’s writing, which makes her play Blue Departed an absolute treat to listen to and one that I wanted to be able to read straightaway to recapture its strange beauty and pitch-black humour. Interestingly, the publicity cites Dante’s Inferno as a key influence though it proves to be an inspiration that is worn lightly and likely for the best.

Cusack’s focus is on Him. And Her. A couple deeply in love, with each other and with smack, so much so that when he comes home to find her OD’d on the floor, his instinct is to spend as much time with her as he can, rather than report her death. Thus Blue Departed plays out as a fantasia in which Him desperately tries to keep Her alive, replaying key moments in their relationship and talking to her, even whilst trying to get through her funeral and wake. Continue reading “Review: Blue Departed, VAULT Festival”

Review: Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, Southwark Playhouse

“Here be the people that make the city new”

On entering the Vault at Southwark Playhouse, a man in a grey tracksuit offers you a furry purple blindfold. ‘It’s your choice to wear it…’ he says, how could you refuse?! Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World is the only play that Louis de Bernières has written but it is a play for voices, originally broadcast as it was on Radio 3 and that is where the blindfold comes in. Bad Physics’ production offers the opportunity to experience it as a radio play, listening to the dialogue but with added sensory experiences, live sound effects, smells and sensations or you can choose to watch the cast perform these sensory interventions and experience it without the element of surprise.

The show is an homage to the author‘s life in Earlsfield, South West London and takes direct influence from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood in its device of an omnipresent narrator inviting us to witness and eavesdrop on the everyday life as he has observed it in Tooting. The cast of eight play a multitude of characters from a wide range of the social spectrum giving a rich slice of the diversity of this community, which like so many communities, is having to deal with changes that have and are continuing to take place. The characterisations sometimes tend towards the broadly stereotypical but only because so many stereotypes are based in truth and the cast never loses sight of the humanity of even the wackier traits of behaviour being portrayed here. Continue reading “Review: Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, Southwark Playhouse”