Tag Archives: Rachael Murray

A Lesson From Aloes
★★★★★

Finborough Theatre

A Lesson From Aloes

A Lesson From Aloes

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 5th March 2019

★★★★★

 

“There are some careful directorial choices that navigate the claustrophobia of the relationships”

 

A Lesson from Aloes begins with names: ‘names are not just labels’ says Piet, naming the only thing that survives droughts, his Aloe Vera plants. The play is deceptively simple. Set in 1963, a year after Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment in a sleepy, dry suburb of Port Elizabeth, Piet and his wife, Gladys are throwing Steve a small party to celebrate his being let out of prison. But at the height of apartheid, the friendship between a white Afrikaaner couple and a black man is fraught with difference. What follows is a story that examines what it means to belong somewhere.

Names are important in Athol Fugard’s writing, (see, for example, Sizwe Bansi is Dead) because they can demonstrate the crushing contradictions of both feeling displaced and rooted at the same time. Janet Suzman’s superb production at The Finborough brings out all the difficult and delicate debates of this rarely revived piece. As the play delves into questions relating to the limits of white liberalism and to the boundaries of friendship between different races and genders, the play feels very timely.

This is a story about a marriage and a friendship after a crisis. It is a story in which love and trust bear the burden of lost hope and disgrace. Fugard’s genius lies, however, in the relationships he creates, and Suzman’s direction is particularly sensitive to this. There are some careful directorial choices that navigate the claustrophobia of the relationships as well as the Finborough’s small stage.

Norman Coates’ set design adds to this atmosphere with a dominating sandy beige hue that acts as a stark contrast to the green Aloe plants which Piet treasures as a sign of survival. Coates’ clever staging also evokes the fundamental interplay of the private and public spheres for at its core, this play focuses on the moments when the political becomes deeply personal.

The cast are so in tune with one another that they feel like people with long, shared histories. Janine Ulfane delicately portrays Gladys, a woman broiling with a rage that cannot find an outlet. Opposite her, Dawid Minnaar wonderfully delivers the mild-mannered, kind and proud Piet. David Rubin’s Steve is bold and convincing. Disempowered by their gender and their race, respectively, Ulfane and Rubin give shape to two very different kinds of victims, with different ways of navigating their anger. This contrast brings out a very poignant ending.

This is a fearless and nuanced piece. As a slightly longer show of two hours, it has the time to gradually build relationships and then, to push them to their limits. Though South Africa seems far away, Suzman’s production has brought debates about race, gender and belonging to, what was last night, a remarkably all white audience. It seems like a very good time to explore whiteness, privilege and political engagement with the sharpness and diligence akin to Fugard’s.

 

Reviewed by Tatjana Damjanovic

Photography by Alixandra Fazzina

 


A Lesson From Aloes

Finborough Theatre until 23rd March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
But it Still Goes on | ★★★★ | July 2018
Homos, or Everyone in America | ★★★★ | August 2018
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
The Beast on the Moon | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019

 

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

 

Lola

Lola
★★★★

VAULT Festival

Lola

Lola

The Vaults

Reviewed – 23rd January 2019

★★★★

 

“the incredible writing, coupled with Dunne’s fluid, lively direction, allows the performances to spring to life”

 

Papercut Theatre have created something truly special with Hannah Nixon’s play Lola. Under Melissa Dunne’s direction, and using Nabokov’s Lolita as a source of inspiration, the play effortlessly addresses issues of power and gender that are timely and highly impassioned.

The play follows Lola (Gemma Barnett), an 18-year-old sixth former who is attempting to navigate the restraints and obsessions put on her gender and sexuality by the boys, and men, around her. In seeking the council of two of her teachers, Jez (Rob Ostlere) and Olivia (Joanne Ferguson), the play spills into a gripping and highly relevant drama of gender politics that refuses to stay silent.

Nixon’s writing is intricate and subtle and yet so full of weight. She’s able to capture so much story in a few sweeping statements, thus giving space for some excellent drama to play out between the play’s three characters as they struggle for power. The dialogue is seamless and flows like everyday conversation, constantly building in tension and allowing us to read deeper into all three personalities. The script does, however, lose some of its feeling when slipping into the dream sequences, which are a little jarring and occasionally act to take us out of the drama, rather than to throw us in deeper.

That said, the incredible writing, coupled with Dunne’s fluid, lively direction, allows the performances to spring to life. Ferguson’s Olivia is proud and human, funny and heartfelt. Ostlere’s Jez is charming and unnerving, and there is some real genius behind the actor’s creation of this untrustworthy ‘nice guy’ who proves difficult to work out. As Lola, Barnett’s performance takes centre stage; it’s mesmerising, raw and so beautifully executed. She’ll make you laugh, she’ll make you cry.

Lola is one of the best new plays I’ve seen a long while – it’s exciting, it’s slick, it’s inspiring and it showcases some real upcoming talent. Contemporary drama about gender politics can so often miss the mark, but this company have produced something that challenges social norms in a way that feels original, rousing and ultimately moving. I urge you to go and see this play if you can.

 

Reviewed by Tobias Graham

Photography by Ali Wright

 

Vault Festival 2019

Lola

Part of VAULT Festival 2019

 

 

 

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