Unseen Unheard, a show seeking to improve the representation of Black women with breast cancer, is a co-production between Black Women Rising and Peckham Theatre. The production emerged from the real stories of black women’s struggles after a cancer diagnosis and the myriad problems that the system affords them, based on their race. From the belief that black women don’t feel pain – “they see us as superhuman and subhuman at the same time” – to the absence of prosthetics of an appropriate skin tone, point to health inequities that the statistics sadly bear out. Black women are 28% more likely to die from a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis than white women with the same diagnosis.
21-year-old Catriona is very good at lying. She knows she isn’t supposed to, but she just can’t help herself when a ‘not unhandsome’ American man comes into the pub where she works. Craving some exhilaration and a reprieve from her mother’s grilling about whether she is living an exciting life yet or not, Catriona takes American Man on a wild goose chase of tall tales around her small home town in Northern Ireland.
Unfussy and rich – that’s what Eating Myself is, in a good way. Although, one of the key takeaways from this one-woman show is that no rich Peruvian dish goes without a fuss. Eating Myself is an endearing monologue by Pepa Duarte about food that navigates the intersections between body stereotypes, family, traditions and cuisine.
Playing Latinx is a co-production by Guido García Lueches and MarianaMalena Theatre Co. The script is inspired by Guido’s real-life experiences auditioning within the UK theatre and film industries, navigating the exploitation of Latin stereotypes, and the thin line between going harmlessly along and complying with problematic myths. The Latin American theatremakers have devised a one-person show in which they’re doing and saying all the wrong things, Guido tells me, but making sure that people know it’s all wrong.
Arnold Rubek (Øystein Røger), a once great sculptor whose creative blaze now resembles little more than an ember, arrives in Norway with his young wife Maia (Andrea Bræin Hovig). He had once promised to take her to the top of a mountain and show her all that the world has. He never did. And so, she – young, frustrated – and he – despondent, lifeless – are stale and drifting apart. Along come Irene (Ragnhild Margrethe Gudbrandsen), Arnold’s long forgotten muse and former model and Ulfhejm (James Browne), a rugged bear-hunter – to tempt each into their separate awakenings.
High school and a pregnant teenager – Doll (Georgie Halford) lays out what it means to face judgmental peers and an indifferent mother. She finds support in her new friend, Ted (Roel Fox), but this unlikely friendship will face challenges he didn’t bargain for. They talk directly to the audience, overtly assuming the role of storytellers in what starts as Doll’s story. However, as the show moves forward, they begin to disagree on how much truth they share and how they’ll deal with the recollection of events. Doll, arrogant and stubborn, is resolved to move away from the truth. Ted starts by playing along, humble with a big smile, and assumes the role of a sidekick/assistant as they embark on the recreation of the rise and fall of their friendship. Eventually, however, he breaks out from Doll’s solo attempt as he grows determined to bring the truth to light.
Passion Fruit is very much Dior Clarke’s story, but it’s not a solo performance. Though the first rehearsal I observed consisted of the director Melina Namdar solely working with Clarke, the second included actor Hayden Mampasi, who takes on a varied collection of supporting characters. In this rehearsal, director Melina Namdar uses a range of exercises to develop Mampasi’s characterisations and ensure the people he plays are distinct from each other. It’s an intense day full of work on the details that bring characters to life on stage, showcases Namdar’s expansive director toolkit, and the techniques that actors use to bring characters to life.
Cleo has finally had enough of Kylie Jenner’s celebrity and with nowhere else to safely vent her frustrations, she takes to her anonymous Twitter account. After her first couple of tweets critiquing Kylie’s appropriation of Black culture, Cleo’s best friend Kara busts in when her concerned Whatsapps are ignored. Their ensuing discussion – that often descends into argument – also covers queerness, friendship, teenage offenses and indiscretions, and the long history of violence Black people have suffered at the hands of whites.
The particularly dark and damp Cavern is a perfect location for V+15 what with its references to the trains passing overhead, as well as the mysterious, dystopian theme that runs throughout the play. Jo Sutherland’s writing is philosophical, political and fast-paced with twists and turns at every corner, and the direction from Sara Reimers is naturalistic and engaging, but a bit lacking in its ability to bring out the characters’ emotions. Whether this is down to the actors, the direction, or the script, it is hard to tell. It could be a combination of all three.
Peyvand Sadeghian was born in Canning Town, and East London runs through her veins. Yet, there’s also the scent of something else, from somewhere far away – rose water and pomegranate, from an ancient civilisation the western world loves to demonise. She doesn’t give this much thought until she is 10 years old and first travels to Iran with her father. This is a turning point in her life; it’s when she finds she is not just one person, but two. As well as Peyvand the Londoner, she’s also Parisa the Persian girl. These two identities are set in opposition in this deliberately messy collage about having multiple citizenships and identities, and embedded with a spirit of revolution.