Exile

Mon 14th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Darcy Rollins

at 18:12 on 19th Aug 2017

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This play starts as it means to go on; intensely. As the audience enters, five of the characters stand surrounding the stage in the centre, one lies in the centre. Immediately, a sense of mystery and danger fills the room, especially when I noticed the blood-stained dress of the woman in the centre.

Who these women are, is revealed, naturally, as the play unfolds. They are Medea, Abhita, Samasti, Elaheh, Antoinette and Agave. Six women from different time periods, from literature, who have been exiled from their society for their transgressions. This is an a intelligent, ambitious idea but one that could have seemed forced if done lazily. It could have looked like the writers threw six fascinating characters together and assumed something equally fascinating would emerge. Nothing about this production is lazy due to the developed, nuanced writing to the beautiful, engrossing execution of this play.

The six characters are the bedrock that grounds this ambitious play. Each is credible and distinct, written by Rute Costa, each is played with verve by their respective actress. Medea (Niamh Curran) slinks around the stage with a haughty disdain for the others. Elaheh (Emily Collinson) is the diplomatic voice of the group who is responsible for many of the memorable speeches of the play. Abhita (Ruby Kwong) brings fire and a hint of comedy to the proceedings. Samasti (Min Ji Choi) is silent and yet still engaging. Agave (Sabrina Gilby) is sapped of energy by her grief while Antoinette's mental instability is played with empathy by Posey Mehta. The dynamic between the six is equally credible as Elaheh and Abhita have a clear bond, balancing each other as the fiery and the diplomatic, while Antoinette softly consoles Agave. Bad writing would have seemed like six interesting characters, plucked from various sources, thrown in this wasteland, delivering monologues, instead we get relationships, conflict and plot development.

The mesmerising lights and music enhance the drama of the script. Erratic violins screech as blues and greens darken in one of the most moving uses of sound I have experienced at the Fringe, composed by Arthur Robijns. This soundscape fills the barren stage with an atmosphere, making this abstract idea of ‘Exile’ something terrifying and real. A remarkable dream sequence involved Collinson as Elaheh writing on parchment frantically, that began to expand, being pulled by the other women, so that the roll encircled her before being broken. This sequence is a perfect example of the dramatic prowess of this production: an effective portrayal of Elaheh’s backstory as her writing led to her exile.

Simply put, this is a brilliant play. There are fascinating characters, an original premise and a beautiful, evocative score. A clear, feminist message is explored in this play, and it is presented naturally by full-blooded characters. Among the sometimes contrived, genre-breaking, strange occurrences at the Fringe, this is a true play: go see it.

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Anna Ley

at 18:31 on 19th Aug 2017

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Antionette meets Agave, ‘Exile’ is the clever convergence of the freakishly familiar experiences of literary heroines that brings Jean Rhys’ writing of the evasions of predecessor Jane Eyre to the rostrum. Walking in to a mysterious melody under the intimidating stares of the women waiting at the peripheries, the long introduction is spent looking into the lost eyes of these seven characters before the audience, exiled from ease, is guided into Rochester’s attic- the unnavigable interiority of the female. A feverishly physical piece of psychosexual discovery, Rute Costa’s sensational script of lyricism, brought to life by a special cast, contemplates ‘what are houses for if the walls can no longer protect you?’, is it a home if you are the hem of the family? A simplistically barren stage, Costa burrows into the caverns of feminine introspection and its spherical confines within which her seven women are as ‘locked’ as the audience is to their seat.

A fantastic fusion of the bodily and the vocal, the physicality of this piece is its pulse. Arms together and arms barricading, wrestling and welcoming each other through fractured to fluid motions creates a feminine face off, a haunting hall of mirrors to which the women get to know their own reflections and their demons. Bonding and breaking, it conveys the chasm that cuts between the women, most strikingly between Abhita (Ruby Kwong) and Medea (Niamh Curran) as a result of Abhita’s deeply passionate accusation of Medea as a ‘self-proclaimed whore’ and the once backbone to Samasti (Min Ji Choi) as she begins to menstruate turning in on her. The rush and recoils of self- blame that ricochet through each story are masterfully caught in the switching pace, persona and elevation of this physical play.

‘Exile’ is a strikingly symbolic play. The friction of the fine sands on the girl’s hands captures the uncomfortably gritty performance given. Through the constant allusion to the sand timer, comes the waning ability to calculate time and the illogical flicking between reflection and reaction of experience captures the illogic of inflicted blame that simmers across these stories. With inventive touches of scroll writing and dance sequences, the pulse of the women that was penned by Rosta is here brought to life. There is an alarmingly disturbed atmosphere to which the movement of a body that lifts and wilts with their experiences, helps them to understand themselves.

Out of place, out of self and out of form, this is a play that, unlike the seven women, chooses its own shape through the boundlessness of its blending of motion and monologue. The drought forbids reflection for the women, dehydrating them from self-awareness, devoid of womanhood and devoid of self- worth and yet this emotively engrossing piece of fantastically fiery feminist criticism is anything but devoid of feeling though as more of a 21:30 than a 9:30 show it was devoid of its deserved audience.

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