Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sour Lips - review

Written by: Daisy Thurston-Gent (@daisytgpoetry)

Ovalhouse, London

Gathered in the bar area of the Ovalhouse Theatre, guests are aware of an underlying sense of excitement as they await the highly anticipated return of Omar El-Khairy’s cultural explosion Sour Lips. Originally developed through the Ovalhouse FiRST BiTE programme in 2012 (and now in association with Paper Tiger) as the theatre itself celebrates its 50th birthday, Sour Lips marks the open to Ovalhouse’s Counterculture season which aims to promote new political voices through challenging original plays that are as bold as they are stylish. This show is force that tears through its audience, working relentlessly in order to achieve its soaring ambitions.

Sour Lips bursts into life, compiling elements of film and recorded music against its highly stylised ensemble of actors, presenting a show that connects with you from the word go. The cast are completely in tune with each other - proven amply by the sheer energy of the chorus - whose slick deliverance as they recite El Khairy’s fast-paced, overlapping lines propel the play into modernity, causing the audience to sit up in their seats and give this story their full attention. The set, too, is incredibly stylish: a row of 5 large stark lights running down the centre of the space in front of a chorus platform with various microphones hanging from the ceiling, all captured between a pair of tall, scratched walls that remind you of a hostage bunker. We are closed in, forced to listen to this gripping piece of theatre. The company are constantly looking for new ways to communicate with their audience; each section is unique and distinctly choreographed to keep up with the play’s spiralling narrative. The ensemble surround you unexpectedly between each bank of audience, their presence noticeably missed whenever they do retreat to the shadows.

Documenting the journey of Amina Arraf, played by Lara Sawalha, the story follows the media hype concerning the kidnapping of the American-Syrian blogger known as A Gay Girl In Damascas. Sawalha gives an impressive performance, seamlessly jumping between Arabic and English as she emotes the powerful voice of posing blogger Tom Macmaster. Simon Darwen plays the dynamic Tom, filling the stage with energy and immense stage-presence opposite the amicable Sawalha. The pair are supported by a striking vocal chorus of 3, made up of Takunda Kramer, Celine Rosa Tan and Eden Vik, whose echoing lines are the very core to this script as they multi-role throughout this fast-paced rhythmic rollarcoaster. As the playwright states, they hold the play together by pulling it apart.

Sour Lips is dauntless, experimental and exciting; Paper Tiger are sensationalising the ways in which we tell a story. The play’s unavoidable comment on the affects of widespread Internet sensations (portrayed within the media) resonates strongly with a contemporary audience, forcing us to question our own habits of social networking in a buzzing society where Twitter is fast-becoming one of the media’s main driving forces. Omar El-Khairy’s script is thoughtful and daring, perfectly fusing fantasy narrative and non-fiction in a medium that is bang on trend. 

This production runs until 16 February 2013. 
@Ovalhouse @TheloniousO @SourLips_a_play 

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what percentage of the material was written by McMaster and what was original? Also how much was McMaster paid for his writing?