Tag Archives: Jessica Clark

Sap

SAP

★★★★★

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

SAP at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

★★★★★

 

Sap

 

“Jessica Lazar’s luminous direction allows plenty of room for the performers to transform their bodies, and our imaginations”

 

Rafaella Marcus’ first full length play, directed by Jessica Lazar, for Atticist, and Ellie Keel productions, is a dazzling debut. The whole thing is performed in seventy minutes, with just two performers, outdoors in a tent at the Summerhall in Edinburgh. All of which just adds satisfying layers to this complex and thought provoking theatrical experience. At its simplest, SAP is a modern retelling of the Apollo and Daphne myth. SAP manages to retain the love and predatory desire of the original, as well as the tragedy. Performers Jessica Clark (as Daphne) and Rebecca Banatvala (playing all the other roles) are riveting as the pursuing, and the pursued.

Greek myths told in a new way is a perennially popular choice for playwrights. What makes Rafaella Marcus’ retelling so intriguing is that SAP confronts human sexuality in non binary forms, and in a very contemporary way. The language of SAP is rich and evocative. Metaphors are used lavishly, which suits the method of presentation — that of an extended monologue told by Daphne, and short scenes with two characters that round out the story when needed. Plants are described as images of transformation, but these are not gentle or passive examples of vegetable life. In the character of Daphne, Marcus explores the idea of metamorphosis as a metaphor for bisexuality as well. In the first of several unexpected plot twists, we discover that Daphne’s lovers are brother and sister. She has a casual fling with the brother, then meets the sister, and the two fall passionately in love. But Daphne’s lover is unsympathetic to the idea of bisexuality, and Daphne gets trapped in the first of several lies as she has to hide who she really is. When she meets her male lover again at a family wedding where both siblings are present, the meeting is catastrophic.

There is so much for a couple of talented performers to work with in SAP. Jessica Clark and Rebecca Banatvala are more than up to the challenge. Banatvala takes on the supporting roles, including those of the rival brother and sister. But the play begins and ends with Clark’s non binary character Daphne. Jessica Lazar’s luminous direction allows plenty of room for the performers to transform their bodies, and our imaginations, using the vivid language of Marcus’ script. Banatvala’s ability to shift character with the twitch of an eyebrow or shrug of a shoulder, is particularly breathtaking to watch. But the energy that drives the whole comes from Clark as Daphne. The production is complete and satisfying, and that includes costumes and set (Rūta Irbīte) and the work of sound designer and composer Tom Foskett-Barnes. Catch this production while you can in Edinburgh—and hope that it gets produced elsewhere, and soon.

 

 

Reviewed 4th August 2022

by Dominica Plummer

 

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The Funeral Director – 5 Stars

The Funeral Director

The Funeral Director

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 2nd November 2018

★★★★★

“The play illustrates the beauty of complexity; of embracing nuance rather than shying away from it”

 

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop’s decision to refuse service for a same-sex couple, just a month before Iman Quereshi was announced as the winner of Papatango’s 10th Anniversary New Writing Prize with The Funeral Director. Justice Kennedy summarised that ‘Religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression’, though the court did not provide a lasting precedent for religious exemptions for businesses over clients’ sexual orientations. With The Funeral Director, Quereshi defiantly resists such deferral of responsibility. While courts wrangle and tabloids simplify, art rises. What emerges is a triumphant piece of theatre, which, despite its wonderfully stubborn insistence on complete humanisation, retains a deftness to its powerful LGBTQ storyline.

We begin with Ayesha (Aryana Ramkhalawon) and her husband Zeyd (Maanuv Thiara). Stuck in a relatively unspectacular (but not unloving) marriage, the pair manage Ayesha’s family business: an Islamic funeral home. However, when Tom (Tom Morley) arrives with a seemingly simple request — for them to provide a dignified service for his late boyfriend, their refusal leads to cultural and religious disarray. When Ayesha’s childhood friend-turned-lawyer Janey (Jessica Clark) returns to care for her own mother, the incident’s ramifications expand further. The play becomes an exploration of modern British identity and perception. Clark’s warmly charismatic Janey represents an increasingly secularised London elite: professional, liberal, firm, but fiercely inclusive and just. Her condescension towards the ‘backwards people’ of her hometown crumbles so as not to create an overpowering division of ‘us and them’ — incidentally, the racialised dynamic Zeyd fears from the British media.

This is the play’s most complex and successful negotiation. In creating Zeyd as a genuinely caring and pragmatic character, director Hannah Hauer King avoids a descent into generalisation. His homophobia is condemnable from the outset, but his dilemma embodies the encroachment of community pressure upon personal belief — forces managed with ease by the constantly endearing Thiara. He would love his own child regardless of its sexuality, but he cannot face the wider fallout from the Muslim community. Although this selectivity is hardly a foundation for sincere tolerance, it allows the play to develop the ideas of personal
spirituality and ideological emancipation which we hope eventually touch Zeyd too: a loving Allah would not want Muslims to suffer persecution owing to their sexuality and loves all, Ayesha explains at the close.

Again though, the play is woven with a precision which rightly champions the voices of its queer characters. Morley’s anguish as Tom prompts Ayesha’s transformation, but it is his boyfriend’s faith who provides the reasoning. Even in absence, his power is devastating, embodying the strength of queer Muslims while symbolising trauma’s potential results in the fight for existence. The play illustrates the beauty of complexity; of embracing nuance rather than shying away from it. Queer intersectionality’s very foundations within British society are questioned and embraced under the lights of Southwark Playhouse. The result is mesmerising.

 

Reviewed by Ravi Ghosh

Photography by The Other Richard

 


The Funeral Director

Southwark Playhouse until 24th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Bananaman | ★★★ | January 2018
Pippin | ★★★★ | February 2018
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018

 

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