Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle – until 3rd December 2022
Reviewed by Sandra Little
This one hour play is presented by Papi Jeovani and Rhian Jade, and is performed without any props or scenery other than the convict style uniforms the two actors wear throughout the performance. The presentation relies heavily on powerful dialogue and also intense monologue on some occasions.The narrative seems to suggest that these two actors are sharing a prison cell but the “blank canvas” of the stage leaves the setting, time and place of the play open to interpretation.
The publicity information accompanying this play tells us that two people are forced to share a space and lose freedom, hope and a dog! We are also told that they find their lives are more similar than they could have ever imagined. The two actors play a black male and a white Irish female.
The narrative of this production does not follow a conventional structure and felt more like a series of conversations and monologues with some physical theatre included. The production was a powerful exploration of difficult and very relevant issues including drug dealing, drug related crime, personal identity, the constraints that upbringing has on a person and also feelings relating to sexual orientation. Both characters also mention violence, shooting and mental health! There are however, some more tender moments and a sprinkling of humour, interspersed within the play. We learn that Ailish ( Rhian Jade) was constrained by her family’s religious beliefs and traditional expectations. On one occasion Ailish says,”I am what this world made of me” We learn that Alisha leaves an unhappy marriage and has “treatment” for “being gay.” Meanwhile we hear that Marcus (Papa Jeovani) had been involved in drug dealing and criminal activity; issues which had an impact on his relationship with his son.
This production is a collaboration between Alphabetti Theatre and SoreSlap Theatre which is led by creatives Papi Jeovani and Rhian Jade. When I attended on Wednesday 16th a “ pay what you feel” arrangement was in place and this small theatre was full. The general feeling I gathered was that people enjoyed the performance. Rhian and Papi have worked together in Newcastle since 2019.