Category Archives: Reviews

Blueprint Medea
★★★

Finborough Theatre

Blueprint Medea

Blueprint Medea

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd May 2019

★★★

 

“D’Silva as Medea gives us a leading lady trained to fight and win”

 

Euripides’ classic has been re-imagined by Julia Pascal and her company to tell the story of a female Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighter who flees the contested geography of her birthplace to seek asylum in Britain. Here she meets and falls in love with a young man who has taken the name Jason “because it’s cool”. Jason will later revert to his given name of Mohamed and the demands of his traditional Iraqi family. You can guess what happens next.

It’s worth reviewing the programme notes before the show starts. They contain a lot of helpful information that explains the complicated background that inspired Blueprint Medea. They also explain the link between Greek Medea and Kurdish Medea (the contemporary Kurds are descendants of the Medes whose empire, the Greek historian Herodotus tells us, once stretched all the way into modern Turkey). Once the show begins, we are plunged straight into the heart of its dilemma – how is Medea going to survive in this alien place called London where she doesn’t speak English, and furthermore, has arrived with a forged passport? With the aid of flashbacks, Pascal and company give us a sketch of the tragic events that led Medea to London, and the fateful meeting with a “young god” named Jason.

There is much to like about Blueprint Medea — it successfully spans vastly different worlds and cultural expectations all within the tiny intimate space that is the stage of the Finborough Theatre. A simple but versatile set designed by Kati Hind (who also created the lighting) and the muscular direction of Julia Pascal show the talents of the actors to best advantage.

Ruth D’Silva as Medea gives us a leading lady trained to fight and win (even if that means using scorched earth tactics to do so). The ensemble of actors around her have individual moments to shine, and Tiran Aakel deserves special mention for his ability to switch effortlessly between such roles as the Kurdish fighter who trains Medea, and Jason’s demanding Iraqi father, who insists that his son follow the customs of his tribe. It is also worth noting that although Pascal does not employ a Chorus the way Euripides did, there are lovely moments where the whole cast takes on a Chorus-like role very effectively.

Ultimately, though, there are just faint traces of Euripides’ original in this “blueprint” version. But Pascal has found a story powerful enough to stand by itself. Blueprint Medea is a multifaceted and complex drama, and is capable of making a connection with audiences wherever they may be.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Isabella Ferro

 


Blueprint Medea

Finborough Theatre until 8th June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Winning Hazard | ★★★★ | September 2018
Square Rounds | ★★★ | September 2018
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018
Bury the Dead | ★★★★ | November 2018
Exodus | ★★★★ | November 2018
Jeannie | ★★★★ | November 2018
Beast on the Moon | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019
A Lesson From Aloes | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

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Does my Bomb Look Big in This?
★★★★

Soho Theatre

Does my Bomb Look Big in This?

Does my Bomb Look Big in This?

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd May 2019

★★★★

 

“provocative, creative, and a joy to watch”

 

It’s not easy to tell an important story, especially when everyone else wants to tell it for you.

Nyla Levy was tired of playing the “Jihadi Bride” in projects that neither knew nor cared about the experiences of such women. In Does My Bomb Look Big in This? she not only reclaims that narrative, but revamps it entirely. About five minutes into Aisha’s explanation of why her best friend Yasmin ended up in Syria, Yasmin herself storms onstage and demands to be involved. ‘This is my story,’ she complains, ‘and you’re telling it boringly.’ The cast take note, and the ninety minutes that follows is an effortlessly funny, affecting, and self-aware piece of theatre.

The friendship between the two girls is the core of this story. Halema Hussain (Aisha) and Nyla Levy (Yasmin) share a strong chemistry that makes their innate understanding of each other feel completely natural. It is this bond that facilitates the eloquent discussions of religious, racial, and political identity that permeate the play. Levy does not demonise or judge the girls for their actions; both performers invite empathy and understanding. The fact that they perform in front of their school lockers is a reminder of how out of their depth they truly are.

But the best moments are those in which both the script and the actors are aware of the fact that this is a performance. The highlight was when Actor Three (enlisted to play all the white characters – brilliantly portrayed by Eleanor Williams) breaks out of character to express her disappointment that ‘every character I play is so one dimensional’. What starts as a parody of white privilege ends with Actor Three being ordered, by Yasmin, to wear a hijab and play the role of Yasmin’s mum. This provocative decision not only forces Actor Three to confront her ignorant sense of entitlement, but forces white audience members to do the same. Once again, Levy makes us aware of how little these stories belong to us and – for all our apparent wokeness – how minimal our understanding of British Asian experience is.

When staff at the Soho Theatre announced that the house was open for this show, the ‘edgy’ title seemed to shock some of those around me. The apparent surprise that such a show exists reinforces the importance of Does My Bomb Look Big in This? – which, for the record, I wouldn’t call ‘edgy’; that would imply a lack of substance. I would call it provocative, creative, and a joy to watch.

 

Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by Bettina Adela

 


Does my Bomb Look Big in This?

Soho Theatre until 8th June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Chasing Bono | ★★★★ | December 2018
Laura | ★★★½ | December 2018
No Show | ★★★★ | January 2019
Garrett Millerick: Sunflower | ★★★★ | February 2019
Soft Animals | ★★★★ | February 2019
Angry Alan | ★★★★ | March 2019
Mouthpiece | ★★★ | April 2019
Tumulus | ★★★★ | April 2019
William Andrews: Willy | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Hotter | ★★★★★ | May 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com