This new play about immigration explores some interesting ideas, but that's also it's weakness as it feels like a discussion, says Kristy Stott
8 Mar 2014
States of Verbal Undress is the product of two whole years of interviews with migrant communities, aiming to unveil a variety of immigrant voices which we rarely get to see or hear on the British stage.
The show is a two hander, written by Rani Moorthy and performed by both the writer and Mancunian actor Curtis Cole. Both play a range of different characters, including a Vietnamese drag artist, a Burmese activist and a feisty Jamaican chinese boxer. Moorthy aims to help us understand the complexities of migration through the portrayal of the unique histories and experiences of each of these characters.
The theme of immigration is intriguing, current and provocative; the writing throws up a lot of questions to the audience, particularly on the validity of the British Citizenship Test. Both actors are strong and charismatic and able to portray a variety of different accents.
The opening of the show depicts both characters discussing this test and interacting with the audience, throwing some of the questions out for discussion. This is interesting and humourous, but sadly I felt that this was the only section which did fully engage the audience.
States of Verbal Undress approaches the very relevant and current subject of immigration, a topic which we rarely see tackled in a theatre. And Rasa Productions may have a dynamic piece of theatre on their hands if they channel Rani Moorthy's vision in the right way.
However, as the piece stands, relying on the actors for slight shifts in accent and intonation leaves the audience wondering where each character ends and a new one begins. This piece calls for a strong director with a knowledge of the subject matter and one who is willing to take chances in order to expose the fine subtlety and wit in the promising script.
I love the premise, as there are so many places you can go with it, and the subject matter is emotive and powerful. However, the characters need further development in order to engage with their audience.
As it stands, though, States of Verbal Undress is just an idea. It is currently just a collection of interesting interviews, but with more work it could be a thought provoking and refreshing piece of theatre.
States of Verbal Undress is at the Lowry until 8 March and also visits Ludlow, Herefordshire, Northumberland, Co Durham, Cheshire, Scunthorpe, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Huddersfield. For full tour dates, visit the show's website.