Tag Archives: Amber Woodward

Becoming
★★★★

Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Becoming

Becoming

Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Reviewed – 7th March 2019

★★★★

 

“The non-sequential vignettes, often loosely linked, act just like a wandering mind”

 

At life changing moments, it’s often difficult to comprehend quite how you got there. What were the events that made you the person you are and how will they help you make sense of the person you will become? It’s this kind of personal reflection that’s explored in Becoming an autobiographical solo show by Ayo-Dele Edwards.

Jumping between present and past-selves, Ayo-Dele takes the audience through moments that have shaped her into the person she is today. Born in London, at four years old she is sent to live in Nigeria with various family members until, at ten, her mother comes and swoops her back to London, leaving her father behind. Events later in life are also explored, particularly related to her relationships with other men in her life – her brother, the father of her child, her fiancé. The non-sequential vignettes, often loosely linked, act just like a wandering mind would with each sparking the next without too much thought as to how or why.

Becoming is punctured with live original songs and music to express emotion at pivotal moments in Edwards’ life. Each song has its clear influences, from a love song ballad, to jazz, and hip hop. There is also, importantly, music and song in Nigerian style, with two live musicians playing percussion and keys on stage providing atmospheric sounds and accompaniment throughout. The set and props personify her family, with a coat and hat hanging up stage throughout representing the shadowy figure of her absent father.

By virtue of its subject, Becoming is a soul bearing piece drawing on a life’s worth of experience and emotion. Edwards recounts neglect and abuse that took place in Nigeria which are all the more uncomfortable to watch knowing they are drawn from experience. That’s not to say her life in Britain was sweet and rosy. This is not a piece which looks to dredge up and manufacture drama from personal suffering. It celebrates the Ayo-Dele of today and tomorrow and thanks the Ayo-Dele of yesterday. Edwards has created a dynamic and varied piece, managing to equally express child-like eagerness, the anticipation and loss of adolescent love and the reflection and reservation of later life.

Like life, there’s no neat resolve, and the play ends almost back where it started. But there is something strangely comforting in watching this woman try to make sense of it all and share that with an audience. Feel fortunate to be along for the ride.

 

Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography Helen Murray

 


Becoming

Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 9th March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok | ★★★★ | April 2018

 

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

 

Lipstick: A Fairytale of Iran
★★★

Omnibus Theatre

Lipstick: A Fairytale of Iran

Lipstick: A Fairytale of Iran

Omnibus Theatre

Reviewed – 28th February 2019

★★★

 

“doesn’t shy away from tough politics but tries to fit too much in”

 

Lipstick: A Fairytale of Iran is part-theatre, part-cabaret show which hopes to balance heavy foreign affairs and human rights criticism against some, often more light-hearted, sexual politics. It makes the case that you cannot divorce art from politics, that the mere act of telling a story is in itself a political act.

It’s 2010 and narrator Orla, played by Siobhan O’Kelly, is struggling to come to terms with her recent six week, Government sponsored, trip to Tehran. Orla and best-friend and drag artist Mark, played by Nathan Kiley aka Topsie Redfern, are about to open their own drag night in Soho but far from being excited for their dream to finally come true, they’ve had an argument and need reconciliation. The story unfolds exploring Orla’s time in Iran, how it changed her, and how Mark coped behind in London without his munchkin.

Lipstick is unflinchingly critical of the Iranian state, referring to it’s indecency laws and the brutal retribution in kind or literal ‘eye for an eye’ law exemplified in the case of Ameneh Bahrami and Majid Movahedi. This is, however, in contrast to the people she meets in Tehran. The students in her classes, the receptionist at the hotel and, most touchingly, a carpet shop owner, are all complex characters portrayed with warmth and fondness.

Writer and director Sarah Chew draws clever parallels between Orla’s Northern Irish upbringing and the contemporary situation in Iran. One of Orla’s students notes that the British Embassy in Tehran is on Bobby Sands street, the only street with a British name in the city. There’s also a satisfying circularity when, early in the piece, Orla describes the paramilitary explosive of choice, Semtex, as smelling like marzipan. Later, she is comforted by a kindly offer of traditional Iranian rosewater sweets – made from marzipan.

Whilst all this is happening, Mark stays in touch from London on the phone and through music he’s preloaded onto an MP3 player for Orla’s trip. Mark’s character and journey don’t feel as deeply explored or neatly structured. This disconnect was then magnified by the use of pre-recorded voice, with Mark lip syncing often to his own voice. Whilst the tinny, distant sound of the pre-record was likely meant to evoke the 5,000 miles between Tehran and London, it instead limited the connection with his character. Although responsible for many of the biggest laughs and impressive vocal performances, it was a shame his arc wasn’t as critically explored as Orla’s, leaving him to fulfil the “Gay Best Friend” trope.

The stage featured a long catwalk with the audience sat either side, as if in the Soho club. Mark’s many costumes were effective in motion, although the props and tech experienced a few glitches which, although handled well, did not go unnoticed.

Lipstick doesn’t shy away from tough politics but tries to fit too much in, leaving the plot feeling lopsided, limping along behind. However, despite this, its ending is feel-good and will leave you smiling on your way out of the theatre.

 

Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography by Flavia Fraser-Cannon

 


Lipstick: A Fairytale of Iran

Omnibus Theatre until 24th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
My Dad the Magician | ★★★★ | March 2018
The North! The North! | ★★★ | March 2018
Gauhar Jaan – The Datia Incident | ★★★★ | April 2018
The Yellow Wallpaper | ★★★★ | June 2018
Blood Wedding | ★★★ | September 2018
Quietly | ★★★ | October 2018
To Have to Shoot Irishmen | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Selfish Giant | ★★★★ | December 2018
Hearing Things | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Orchestra | ★★★ | January 2019

 

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