The Singing Stones (Arcola Theatre)
Mama Quilla's triad of plays has a good message but the production is lacking
The Singing Stones is a triad of plays offering an incisive view into the women of the Arab revolutions. Each short play offers a unique insight into the Arab spring; giving voice to the heroines of Tahrir Square, the female fighters defending the borders of Kurdistan and the female artists persecuted in Syria.
It seems right and fitting that the voices of this play are brought to the audience by a female-led production company, and that the diversity of its cast conveys the universality of its narrative. But it's frustrating that the accompanying films made by Syrian artists - which perfectly complement the play's narrative - are poorly projected on the back wall of the stage.
What emerges as these voices tell of infringements to their liberties and violations of their bodies is an authentic and timely piece of theatre; shedding light on the women who struggled to assert their basic rights, and who believed that they were on the cusp of attaining them. Unsurprisingly, though, the violence of its words and actions doesn't make this triad of plays easy to watch.
The production moves fluidly between scenes and self-consciously announces the transition between one play and the next, as if to say that the fourth wall is one barrier these voices do not need if their story is to be heard. The scenes themselves, though, are a little static at times, as if the physicality of the piece isn't matched by the power of the voices.
But it's Tina Gray who provides an anchor for the cast; giving a sure and steady performance in her varied roles. She shows subtlety in the understated grief of a mother whose daughter has been torn limb from limb, and then bursts forth in a comic role as a granny willing to employ whatever tactics necessary to get a front row seat at the trial of a dictator.
The final play is narrated by the whole company and is symbolic of the many voices which have been united by Kay Adshead's provocative writing. It's a shame, then, that in an attempt to create a multiplicity of voices the cast employ a melting pot of accents which is sometimes comical but quite often distracting. All in all, while the play's voices demand to be heard, the production itself doesn't demand to be seen.
The Singing Stones runs at the Arcola Theatre until 28 February 2015