Tag Archives: Rajha Shakiry




Battersea Arts Centre



 Battersea Arts Centre

Reviewed – 5th February 2020



“the raw emotions being experienced by Cordeu as she performs are something that we can tune into whoever and wherever we may be”


The importance of remembering – and forgetting – and identifying where you truly call your home are key themes in a fascinating and powerful audio-visual theatrical experience at Battersea Arts Centre as part of an impressive Going Global spring season.

As much a general plea to listen to the stories of our forebears as it is a personal journey through her family’s life in South America (and, indeed, the tale of the country itself), Florencia Cordeu has created a captivating piece of performance art in “Autoreverse.”

Using extracts from cassette tapes stored at her family home in Chile, Cordeu learns about the past and rediscovers her present as she reflects on what she hears on the tapes, featuring voices of various family members who escaped the cruel Argentinian regime in the 1970s but were forced apart as a result.

An array of cassette players in a living room are used to play the various tapes (all credit to Elena Pena at the sound desk for making this so realistic), which stirs recollections of growing up, and evokes memories of a bygone age, feelings of safety and home.

The set (Rajha Shakiry) is so convincing the audience feels it has mistakenly wandered into someone’s apartment rather than into a performance in the Centre’s Members’ Bar.

What is poignant is that to anyone else these recordings mean little – as Cordeu herself admits they “capture the banal, the everyday.” But we soon come to realise the importance of these tapes – love letters between family members living apart which capture moments in time to be played on other days in other places.

Director Omar Elerian allows the personal essence of the story to develop and flow naturally as Cordeu shares centre stage with the voices of the past, though references to the analogue reality of old cassette tapes (which have a limited life span) seem odd when it is clear that CDs or digitally recorded versions of the tapes are being played.

But it is easy to look beyond that as we picture a natural flow of thoughts and images falling onto the iron oxide of the tape, which allows a sense of “being there while not being there and seeing things with the ears.”

Not only do the recordings – and, by extension, the show – attempt to rescue and make sense of everyday life but serve a purpose of remembering what may have otherwise been forgotten.

A recurring motif of a tree – Cordeu brings on a bonsai, which she wishes could be planted outside rather than sitting on a table in a pot to allow it to grow freely and unconstrained – serves as a significant metaphor. She tends it with the notion that it is important to try to keep things alive, as important for plants as it is for memories.

With the first recording played serving as a narrative (the performer recorded it in her flat last year) there’s an intriguing question posed about looking to the future and being what you want to be – a publicity image for the production of a little girl dressed as Wonder Woman has relevance as the play continues.

The closing scene, which considers what is truly our home and how we build it up, adds depth to a show that is already thought-provoking.

The overall impact is touching, even where there’s a feeling another culture might find it difficult to share the experiences and fully understand the implication of all the memories. But the raw emotions being experienced by Cordeu as she performs are something that we can tune into whoever and wherever we may be.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Helen Murray



 Battersea Arts Centre until 22nd February


Previously reviewed at this venue:
How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse | ★★★ | May 2018
Rendezvous in Bratislava | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Dressed | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Status | ★★★½ | April 2019
Woke | ★★★ | June 2019
Now Is Time To Say Nothing | ★★★★ | October 2019
Queens Of Sheba | ★★★★ | November 2019
Trojan Horse | ★★★★★ | November 2019
Goldilocks And The Three Musketeers | ★★★★★ | December 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Sundowning – 4 Stars



Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 18th October 2018


“There is an outstanding performance from Hazel Maycock, whose portrayal of Betty is worth the price of admission alone”


Dementia is one of the biggest health and social challenges we currently face. Most people know someone affected by this cruel illness and whilst in general mental health is something increasingly spoken about, dementia still has an element of public stigma about it. It is encouraging to see more theatres presenting plays with dementia at the core of the story and one such production from Kali Theatre certainly forces the audience to think deeply about their attitude to the topic.

Sundowning is an eighty minute play by Nessah Muthy which introduces us to Betty, a dementia sufferer, her daughter Teresa and the troubled Alyssa. The title refers to a state of increased agitation, confusion, disorientation and anxiety that typically occurs in the late afternoon or evening in some individuals affected with dementia.

The play opens with Betty on a bed in a care home displaying realistic signs of vagueness. Either side of the room are two doors through which Teresa and Alyssa come and go as each scene moves. To the rear of the stage is a window through which we see changes in the light and darkness of the days as time progresses. 

The story appears to be well researched and though not all autobiographical some parts are from Muthy’s own family experience with the disease. We see how difficult it is for all affected and it gives us a glimpse into the realities of caring for someone afflicted by it. 

There is an outstanding performance from Hazel Maycock, whose portrayal of Betty is worth the price of admission alone. She certainly conveys to the audience a very realistic version of a dementia sufferer with an unnerving amount of confusion yet remembering well her beloved late husband Jimmy. Whilst her marriage was an important part of her life that she hasn’t forgotten, arguably it does form a little too much of the play. Aasiya Shah makes Alyssa a believable character whose life has gone off the rails but has a deep down love for her Nan and wants to take her from the care home for one last holiday. The third cast member Nadia Nadif as Teresa has less of a character to get to grips with, though it is clear she finds Alyssa’s sudden appearance an annoyance as she struggles to do what she think is best for her mum.

The sound design (Dinah Mullen) enhances the production. The mix of white noise and excerpts of 60s pop songs helps to give an idea of how Betty’s brain is working. The lighting design (Pablo Fernandez Baz) works well and particularly so in the last scene.

Whilst some parts of the performance did seem to drag a little on occasions, director Helena Bell generally makes the performance flow well. Overall, whilst Sundowning is not a fun night out at the theatre, congratulations should be given to all involved in this thought provoking production which can only raise the awareness and better understanding of dementia.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Robert Day



Tristan Bates Theatre until 3rd November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Love Me Now | ★★★★ | March 2018
An Abundance of Tims | ★★★½ | April 2018
Lucid | ★★★★ | April 2018
Meiwes / Brandes | ★★★ | April 2018
The Gulf | ★★★ | April 2018
San Domino | ★★ | June 2018
The Cloakroom Attendant | ★★★ | July 2018
Echoes | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Love Lab | ★★★★ | August 2018
Butterfly Lovers | ★★ | September 2018
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★★ | September 2018


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