Reviewed – 23rd January 2019
“The actors are confident and energetic, and the piece has wonderful moments of intrigue”
The 2019 VAULT Festival has officially begun! As I walked into the neon-lit labyrinth of The Vaults it was less grand opening, more business as usual: numerous theatre spaces and a packed schedule of shows. The space was The Pit, and the show was ‘Inside Voices’. Labelled as a dark comedy, this piece follows three Southeast Asian women attempting to break free from the constraints imposed by their race, culture, religion and gender. It has been published by Nick Hern books as one of the top seven new plays at The Vaults this year, so I was excited and optimistic as I took my seat.
The play starts very simply: three women sitting around a food tray eating and talking. It was an early opportunity to show the audience what great chemistry these actresses had, and it was a pleasure to watch. Instantly we knew what the relationship was between these three women, who used each other’s company as a chance to escape the pressure of their normal lives. Suhaili Safari particularly shines as the young idealist Nisa, and had buckets of energy throughout the show. Indeed, the whole piece was peppered with these simple but effective moments, be it Fatimah tenderly rubbing Nisa’s belly when she feels sick or the characters constantly talking over each other, which anyone in a close friendship group will be all too familiar with. It was in these moments that the tragedy of the piece really stuck out, and we learned of the tough experiences that forged these women into who they are.
Sadly, these moments fell few and far between, and what started as an effective and subtle drama slowly became a more polemic comment on intersectionality and the #MeToo movement. In these moments, you could feel a shift in the audience mentality. Whereas in the start of the play we were being invited to watch and search for our own interpretations, here we were being told what to think. This is perhaps easier for an audience, but not nearly as enjoyable or rewarding. These moments did drag and left me craving for the more intimate, seemingly mundane but charged scenes between these interesting women.
This show has a strong identity to it, and its message of social oppression and the battle these women face will resonate with a modern audience. The actors are confident and energetic, and the piece has wonderful moments of intrigue. I only wish that I could have been kept intrigued for longer.
Reviewed by Edward Martin
Photography courtesy Lazy Native
Part of VAULT Festival 2019