Tag Archives: Ovalhouse

Grey

Grey
★★

Ovalhouse

Grey

Grey

Ovalhouse

Reviewed – 2nd July 2019

★★

 

“Structurally, the show was rather like an album, comprised of different tracks, but, aside from the closing piece, they all sounded pretty much the same”

 

Grey is an intensely personal show. Written by Koko Brown, who is also one of the two performers, it is an autobiographical account of her own struggles with depression. It is honest, and it is real, and Koko herself radiates warmth, strength, fragility and creativity. To sit in the audience with a notebook and pen felt intrusive, as if I was being asked to critique her pain. So, to be clear: it is the artistic shaping of that pain that is being written about here. Nothing can take away from the truth and validity of Koko Brown’s lived experience.

The show has a simple format. Koko shares the stage with another performer, Sapphire Joy, who interprets – through a mixture of sign language and signifying gesture – what she is saying. Or at least, sometimes that’s what she does. Sapphire busts out of her interpreter role on occasion, to directly challenge or confront Koko’s narrative, though still remaining in the realm of sign and gesture. Sapphire also signs the music. Koko mixes live beats throughout, using her loop station, and frequently sings over the top, and one of the real pleasures of this piece was watching Sapphire Joy physically embody those sounds. Fantastic work, and another instance in which Shelley Maxwell’s superb movement direction shines.

The integration of a signing performer into the work felt exciting, and provided some welcome moments of theatre, especially when the two women interacted, although there were also a few sections of unspoken dialogue which were unclear to the audience, and which, judging by the animation of the performers, it seemed a shame to be missing out on. There was also a terrific section towards the end of the show in which the poetry rose up out of the narrative and Koko then opened her voice into a great howl of pain, triumph and pure being. Unfortunately, these moments were little and late.

Making a perfomance piece about depression is always going to be problematic, as it is a condition of repetitive stasis, which is inherently undramatic; this conundrum wasn’t resolved here, and the show lacked pace and tonal variety. The enforced gaiety which is clearly exhausting for the sufferer, was equally exhausting for the audience, and went on for far too long. Also, the theatrical elements in the staging – giant hanging origami birds, for example – seemed completely arbitrary. Structurally, the show was rather like an album, comprised of different tracks, but, aside from the closing piece, they all sounded pretty much the same.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Mariana Feijó

 

Ovalhouse

Grey

Ovalhouse until 13th July

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Medea Electronica | ★★★ | January 2018
Random Selfies | ★★★ | March 2018
This Restless State | ★★★ | March 2018
Standard:Elite | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Austerity & Me | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Croydon Avengers | ★★★ | June 2018
Undersong | ★★★★★ | June 2018
A Pocketful of Bread | ★★★ | September 2018
Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva … | ★★★★★ | May 2019

 

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

 

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva
★★★★★

Ovalhouse

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself

Ovalhouse

Reviewed – 13th May 2019

★★★★★

 

“will no doubt provide every viewer with a new perspective on the world”

 

Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself is a frank exploration of female sexuality, self-love and patriarchal expectations directed by Donnacadh O’Briain. Brain/Ego (Bella Heesom) and Clitoris/Appetite (Sara Alexander) battle it out for top spot in the female protagonist’s sex life while the former slowly beats the second into societal submission. The clitoris does not understand why she is seen as dirty and disgusting while the brain also often struggles to comprehend the flawed cultural logic she applies to her own sexual desire.

The play explores snippets of the young woman’s sexual growth from discovering masturbation to entering an unfulfilling relationship with a man who sees her as nothing more than a sex object. The protagonist learns that her sexuality and pleasure are embarrassing at a young age when schoolboys laugh at the idea of performing oral sex on a girl. Familiar phrases about female sexuality periodically flash up on a screen at the back of the stage – Virginity is precious. Vaginas are dirty. Sex is for men.

The play is interspersed with scenes of graceful movement (Liz Ranken) in which Alexander nudges and bites at Heesom as if a lioness. This theme is expanded in a meditation led by Alexander during the show where she uses the raw animalism and beauty of the lioness as an analogy for female sexuality. The screen at the back of the stage too shows the face of a lioness to emphasise this.

After the performance, Heesom and Alexander invite the audience to attend an open discussion to reflect on the issues raised in the play. The experiences enacted in the piece are revealed to be near universal amongst the female audience from being told vaginas smell like fish to feeling the need to satisfy a partner on a special occasion. Heesom and Alexander handle the group conversation with great care and sensitivity, and it is an appreciated and moving addition to the show.

The set (Elizabeth Harper) is well considered and helps to emphasise how natural female sexuality is. Heesom and Alexander move around a beautiful (lady) garden with flowers and plants hanging from the ceiling. The screen shows animated flowers growing and dying to reflect the revelations made on stage. The ground is covered in dark pebbles and a rectangular pool of water runs along the back of the stage. A wooden swing hangs in the back-left corner and reminds the audience that these harmful ideas about female sexuality are fed to us since childhood.

Heesom and Alexander are both stars and their chemistry is incredible. The two women move effortlessly between witty back and forth as Brain and Clitoris to sensual moments wrestling on the ground. Heesom’s final speech as the societally battered Clitoris is particularly powerful as she strips off her clothes and attacks the patriarchal constructs that have made female sexuality shameful. Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself will no doubt provide every viewer with a new perspective on the world.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by David Monteith-Hodge

 

Ovalhouse

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself

Ovalhouse until 26th May

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Medea Electronica | ★★★ | January 2018
Random Selfies | ★★★ | March 2018
This Restless State | ★★★ | March 2018
Standard:Elite | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Austerity & Me | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Croydon Avengers | ★★★ | June 2018
Undersong | ★★★★★ | June 2018
A Pocketful of Bread | ★★★ | September 2018

 

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