“Art doesn’t give rise to anything in us that isn’t already there. It simply stirs our curious consciousness and sparks a fire that illuminates who we have always wanted to be” (Kamand Kojouri). Theatre has and continues to be a vessel of communication between people, cultures and ideas. UnderExposed approaches topics that question our “Standardised preconceptions of certain ‘types’ of people…” (taken from the UnderExposed program). In an attempt to ‘expose’ these challenging areas of society and confront them on stage, UnderExposed presents a collection of short pieces that explore the boundaries of an audience’s understanding of what is and is not acceptable in today’s community.
The 9 short (15-20 minute) plays are as varied as they are direct, with some taking the form of sketch comedy and others taking the form of hard-hitting monologue. This format, however, did not lend itself well to what these pieces were trying to achieve and were an awkward length of time for most, if not all these stories. Those that were amusing ended up dragging on, past the initial humour and losing their momentum. Similarly, those that confronted the apparent ‘unexposed’ ideas became jaded and lacked conviction after the initial set up. The stronger pieces were those that satirised or made absurd that which appears controversial. “For the love of Noodles” was the third play in the line up that saw a young girl bringing back her new partner, a clown. This piece was, cleverly, communicating the idea of embracing individuality and had some funny moments, but the subtext in this piece (along with many) was made far too obvert for the audience who were told exactly how to think and feel about this inherently farcical situation.
With that said, you must admire these writers in their endeavour to bring such topics to the stage. All the shorts focused on difficult, contentious and contemporary topics that are indeed not easy to write about and essential to discuss. While these attempts must be rewarded, it is too early to say that they have succeeded in communicating any groundbreaking conclusions or perceptions in their narratives. In amongst this presentation of confused and incomplete expressions of discontent, there are some poignant moments that provoked the audience into more than simply watching these plays. “Flash” depicted a man whose sexual prowess centred around being inappropriate and trying to justify his acts. The audience felt unsure whether to be offended or to laugh at this amusing writing and in that, the piece has triumphed in confronting our preconceptions of these “types of people…” Also, “Taking the rap” was a graceful, if not too quiet, monologue that depicted the toll of working in social healthcare and sustaining a family life around this. The most compelling moment of the entire evening was when recounting a story of being the victim of racism, a statement delivered by the talented Sabina Cameron, “Too late, damage done.”
Unfortunately, the elements of the show that confronted the audience into something completely ‘unexposed’ were too few to justify this title. Many topics that were covered were not as unique as advertised and difficult subject matters such as rape, immigration and Trump are being exposed in major productions in the West End today (Consent, The Jungle etc). It is crucial to congratulate the writers in these pieces, as they seek out ways to speak about such important matters as rape and immigration – but the mostly poor acting and tenuous links mean there is a lot of work to be done in order for these pieces to leave a substantial mark on their audiences.
Review by James Evans
Preconceptions of different ‘types’ of people exist across the wide spectrum of our population and yet we mostly only question those most abhorrent and offensive. But what about those generalisations that don’t get met with immediate disdain, where the stigma does stick and which in many cases fly under the radar of what is considered unacceptable and in poor judgement?
This outing of short plays explores the underexposed theme from many perspectives, pushing the boundaries even further and presenting a diverse range of high-quality writing.
Some more serious and others more light-hearted; the vastly varying voices of the contributory writers will have you recognising, questioning and in many cases laughing out loud at the preconceptions that you never really thought you might have.
UnderExposed Theatre presents
SUNDAY, 8 JULY 2018