Artist – audience – resonance – reflection – WEIRD – discomfort – indifference – values – public – harm – community – responsible? – cracked – so many tiny pieces.
Rabiah Hussain has made a masterpiece. Word- Play is evocative, heart-wrenching and poignant. Kudos to director Nimmo Ismail for the skilled use of light, space, and direction. Each of the actors painted with broad strokes scenes from across London.
Some we have observed, some we have heard of and many that clawed into our skins and made us feel deeply. From scenes of bastions of power making guffaws to the playground to dinner-time social niceties, the drama uncovers the discomfort that often remains unexpressed in social interactions using words that give light to our unconscious biases and blind spots. Also, how we lean so profoundly into words to express and hold space for connections and emotions.
You could hear the sniffles in the room as we witnessed a father crumbling with the finality that he is not a good father for being unable to prepare his child for this world. One could physically feel the actor breathe as they played a student who wanted to study the grief we carried in our bodies. The scene of the actors sprawled in their private spaces, close but connecting through a screen, is something so many of us witness. In not naming the characters, the play allows us to add our own resonances and lenses to viewing the drama on stage. The play could be about the LGBTQI community, the migrants, the brown, black, and Muslim bodies that make up the city we live in and are made invisible while borrowing our recipes, taking our taxes to teach our children and getting elected to make rules we must follow.
The Royal Court Theatre is making fantastic choices in curation and platforming artists whose lived experiences and worldviews we could benefit from taking a moment to ponder and listen deeply. As I left the theatre, two white women ruminated that they expected the play to be more political. Late at night, on the bus back home, an Indian man was dismayed that he was asked if he would like halal meat. He vowed that tomorrow he shall shave his beard off. As if being identified as Muslim was an insult. The personal seems political only for those with everything on the line to survive.
The stage may seem plain, with a letterbox window at one end and a mural of rainbow inclusivity at the other. Catch Issam Al Ghussain, Kosar Ali, Simon Manyonda, Sirine Saba and Yusra Warsama in Word- Play. Their subtle voice modulations provide tongue-in-cheek reflections of the lived experiences of many. The play was delivered as promised by Playwright Rabiah Hussain, ‘You can expect the play to be everything that words themselves are – light, heavy, powerful and questioning.’
Playing until 26th August, https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/word-play/
Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil
Reviewed: 27th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: