Sunday, July 14

Olivera – Hope Street Theatre

Olivera is about transformation and the importance of being true to yourself. New company Igloof Haus presents this queer drama comedy set in South Carolina USA.

The play is written by Jacklyn Jeffries and tells the story of Oliver, a regular high school kid  (Jacklyn Jeffries) who is slowly transitioning into Olivia. She is hiding all this from her radical televangelist Dad (John Smeathers). The play picks up the tension within the family dynamic and we watch as Olivia finds it more difficult to embrace her new life as a young woman within the strict  environment of the family and the wider community.

It’s not until Dad finds a new wife (Suzanne Fulton) that things really do take off. Olivia finds an unexpected ally in her new stepmom and realises now that she must live her life on her  own terms and look for acceptance from a closed society that would rather not deal with trans-femme issues or indeed anything that pertains to being queer. Throw in the character of Olivia’s boyfriend (James McClelland) and the stage is set for dramatic turmoil with a spicy hint of black comedy thrown into the mix. The balance between light and shade is perfect throughout.

Directed by Kristine Holmen. Olivera is a fresh, exciting, and witty new play that examines trans life and the need for recognition. Holmen gets  some splendid and thoughtful performances from the whole cast of four.

Jeffries gives an absolutely outstanding performance as Olivia, Smeathers offers us a balanced and well-judged performance as the emotionally damaged Dad, McClelland brings an exciting  energy to the stage as the slightly nervous boyfriend and Fulton gives a pitch perfect performance as the warm-hearted stepmom.

It’s fair to say that the play is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and  to say how things are finally resolved, would be to spoil it.

Jeffries script is both sharp and nuanced however if I had a slight criticism, it would be that the characters  of Olivia’s boyfriend and Olivia’s stepmom  were given more time in the script  to develop their back stories, but this is such a minor quibble in the whole scheme of things.

A great first production from Igloof Haus and an exciting writing and acting debut from Jeffries – I will look forward to seeing how they develop as a new voice in theatre. Definitely grab a ticket to see this if you get a chance!

Reviewer: Kiefer Williams

Reviewed: 24th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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