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Double Dutch Expresso

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Double Dutch Expresso comprises of two new plays: Jesus Christ and Chocolate Pudding and How the Rapist was Born. Both are coming-of-age stories directed by Poonam Brah, who uses experimental theatrical forms to showcase female friendships and social issues.

First is Jesus Christ and Chocolate Pudding by Punam Ramchurn, the story of best friends Kerry and Rashi growing up in 1980s Liverpool. Rani is a Hindu and Kerry is white working class, but their mutual love of samosas and Adam Ant is more important than their differences. Gradually, however, racial tensions around them and the influence of their families and peers begin to tear apart their friendship. Punam Ramchurn’s story is not ambitiously original, but it is well-executed, funny and sometimes touching. Rachael Hilton and Dina Mousawi are very impressive as the two friends, convincingly growing up on stage and effortlessly dropping into other characters. With no costume, props or set the two actresses create a world with their physicality, which is slick and well-directed.

The second play is rather more controversial both in story and form but made me wish I’d left at the interval. Charlie’s father was a rapist; her mother castrated and killed him. This family history has left our protagonist slightly unhinged, leading her to visit her bedridden mother in hospital with a posse of creepy, Manga-inspired schoolgirls in order to torment her and pump her for information about the father she idolizes. Sounds bizarre, but How the Rapist was Born is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

Writer Sabina England tries to be shocking but she just doesn’t have much to say. We get some jumbled post-feminism (with a bit of British imperialism tacked on) but the main draw is sexy schoolgirls flashing their knickers and shouting, “long live the rapist!” There is no plot and no character development; the talented cast do their best but the mother remains histrionic, the daughter psychotic and the schoolgirls giggly jailbait throughout.

At one point Charlie states that Paris Hilton and Marilyn Monroe are sluts, having sold out women by dressing up for men. Pretty rich coming from a grown woman in a schoolgirl outfit. The play is full of such ill-thought out, pseudo-intellectual cheap shots. It’s the sort of thing that gives both feminism and Fringe a bad name.

- Georgia Blake


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