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Kali Theatre’s SHE IS NOT HERSELF and STATELESS – Review

She Is Not Herself
She Is Not Herself

She Is Not Herself by Veronica J. Dewan.
Directed by Helena Bell

Anoukh is a tourist guide who loves maps. She can find her way to anywhere but cannot find herself. She thinks Jules might have the answers. Jules wants to reclaim the mixed-race daughter she was compelled to give up by the Catholic church. They are strangers to each other yet so much is familiar. As they try to confront the injustices of the past, and negotiate a minefield of emotions, they hear news which threatens to tear this fragile relationship apart.

The Tristan Bates Theatre is an intimate venue and the open set had several boxes piled around the stage. To one side a couple of chairs and some candles. At initial glance the boxes appear to ‘just be there’ but during the play their use as chairs, walls and a table shows the use of space and set has been well thought out. The lighting for the play just worked. I didn’t find myself thinking much about the lighting which for me is always a bonus and credit to the lighting crew.

Running at under an hour the play tells the story of the first meeting of Jules (Maggie O’Brien), a Catholic woman forced into putting her child up for adoption when she was a teenager and Anouk (Amina Zia), the aforementioned child. The meeting takes place in Anouk’s new flat that she has only been in for a week, hence the boxes, and Jules is hinting at staying with her as the hotel she was meant to be staying in wasn’t up to Jules’ expectations.

Zia does a great job portraying Anouk as a nervous women slightly obsessed with her past and family tree, understandably given her history. Zia adds fire to Anouk on certain subjects and vulnerability on others, the accumulation is a character you sympathise with and at times just want to give a hug to.

O’Brien also gives a nervousness to Jules to go with the haughty air that exudes throughout. O’Brien delivers a softer side to Jules when telling the story of how she met Anouk’s father.

She is Not Herself is well-written and touches on a subject that doesn’t receive much attention. I enjoyed the play but did think it would have made a better two-act play to have delved into the story and emotions a little further.

Simon James Baillie as Denny, Shanaya Rafoot as Kat in 'Stateless' by Subika Anwar.
Simon James Baillie as Denny, Shanaya Rafoot as Kat in ‘Stateless’ by Subika Anwar. Photo by Richard Workman

Stateless by Subika Anwar
Directed by Trilby James
Denny has recently returned home from serving in Afghanistan. He is now the gatehouse keeper of a psychiatric hospital. Late one night, he receives an unexpected visit from an intriguing stranger. She is easy to talk to but is she the person she seems to be? At a time of global uncertainty, Stateless merges contemporary political issues with a personal story.

When you enter the theatre for the second play of the evening the stage is set with a desk and chair, with the usual desk trappings, and a coat stand with the sound of rain being played over the speakers. Again the lighting creates the right ambience for the play.

Denny (Simon James Baillie), is a security guard at a mental hospital when Kat (Shanaya Rafaat), arrives having had a bike accident. He tends to her wound and the pair get talking. All isn’t what it seems though and the evening takes an unexpected turn.

Both Baillie and Rafaat deliver excellent performances, working well together and developing the characters as we progress through the play. Their performances are made all the better by the superbly written script which gives us drama, humour and an all round excellent hour.

4 stars

Review by Lee Cogger

SHE IS NOT HERSELF
by Veronica J. Dewan
Directed by Helena Bell
Anoukh is a tourist guide who loves maps. She can find her way to anywhere but cannot find herself. She thinks Jules might have the answers. Jules wants to reclaim the mixed-race daughter she was compelled to give up by the Catholic church. They are strangers to each other yet so much is familiar. As they try to confront the injustices of the past, and negotiate a minefield of emotions, they hear news which threatens to tear this fragile relationship apart.

STATELESS
by Subika Anwar
Directed by Trilby James
Denny has recently returned home from serving in Afghanistan. He is now the gatehouse keeper of a psychiatric hospital. Late one night, he receives an unexpected visit from an intriguing stranger. She is easy to talk to but is she the person she seems to be? At a time of global uncertainty, Stateless merges contemporary political issues with a personal story.

KALI THEATRE
Kali produces ground breaking theatre by daring women writers from a South Asian background who challenge our perceptions through original and surprising theatre. Kali has won rave reviews, sold-out shows and inspired audiences all over the UK with work that comments on our lives today.

Performances
Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd January 2016
http://tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/

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