REVIEW: I Told My Mum I Was Going On An R.E. Trip (Contact Theatre, Manchester)

guest reviewer: Demi west
upstaged rating: 

I told my mum I was going on a R.E trip… was a theatre production aimed at creating an onstage documentary style performance looking at real life stories of abortion. This was a play performed by only four people, in which they would repeat the words of real life interview recordings that they had conducted. This was a very interesting and unique concept for me to experience, as I had never seen a documentary tackled in a theatre setting. Interestingly, the fact that it was acted out instead of the audience hearing the actual recordings managed to create a distance between the characters interviewed and the audience. However, I felt that this verbatim style performance reduced the real life people to caricatures of themselves, which again, was not helped by the often bad accents, and the simple but stereotypical costume props.

In this verbatim performance, the actors each had an MP3 player which they would synchronise with one another, and then repeat the interview, word for word, that was playing in their ear, which gave an authenticity to the dialogue. This was subsequently broken up into seven sections, breaking down the stages one goes through with an abortion, which was again a good way of creating that documentary feel; other characters were added as well such as nurses and even the partners. The addition of a small section exploring how male partners may feel surrounding an abortion was a pleasing addition, as this perspective is often ignored. However, I felt that the way that this was handled really reduced a good idea to just a bit of joke.

Before the play had even started the cast were walking around the stage dancing around and interacting with family/friends which I felt secluded the rest of the audience and affected the vital suspension of disbelief needed for this style of performance. How was I ever meant to believe I was listening to an African girl, who had tragically died when minutes before I had seen her dancing around whilst miming paper planes? Simply waiting off stage until the play was ready to begin would have massively helped create a strong performance, as the acting on show was good but with a bit more of a serious approach would have been even stronger.

Overall the show was a very good concept and was executed well as a contribution to the ongoing debate around abortion – but I would like to see the concept developed further. The actors mentioned some of the interviews they didn’t include and I found myself wanting to hear more about them, as this would have offered a far more diverse opinion range to what was a fairly typical and narrow point of views and experiences. An exception of this was the extreme case of the African girl, which was a very hard hitting narrative and extremely well performed – for me, the star of the show. I Told My Mum I Was Going On An R.E. Trip was an interesting idea, but one I would urge to go deeper.

-Demi West
I Told My Mum I Was Going On An R.E Trip continues its UK tour at Battersea Arts Centre London until 13th February 2017. For further tour dates/ venues and to book tickets please click here.

REVIEW – Different is Dangerous (The Lowry)

Date: 14 may 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Different is Dangerous aims to give a unique insight into the lives of the Asian community living in Leeds. Devised and performed by Fadia Qaraman and Nyla Levy of Two’s Company, the piece aims to explore multicultural life, the challenges of ethnicity and present the voices of Asian Leeds locals.

Qaraman and Levy use a combination of fictional monologues and a technique called headphone verbatim as a means of presenting these personal stories from within the Asian community living in Leeds. The idea is that the performers each wear a set of headphones which relays an audio script to them – each actor then aims to recite this audio script not only word for word but with exact precision, capturing the nuances and speech patterns of the original interviewee. The idea is that there is as much information embedded in the way somebody speaks as the words that they actually use.

Setting is very minimalist consisting of just four chairs and Qaraman and Levy only have 2 scarfs as props, but this is the idea of this type of theatre – it is not meant to be highly visual. Both performers shift between the different characters with ease as they tackle subjects such as unprovoked attacks, relationships and politics. The two creator-performers also reveal some controversial viewpoints as well as some lighthearted and humourous conversation.

Qaraman and Levy certainly manage to keep the audience listening throughout the full 50 minute experience. And despite the performance style not being highly visual, you do still manage to get lost in the everyday voices, opinions and beliefs of the community in Leeds.

Different is Dangerous certainly succeeds in getting people to think and discuss cultural identity in Britain, raising the profile of a topic that some people still feel uncomfortable talking openly about.

-Kristy Stott