Review: Outside (Orange Tree Theatre, online)

Following the three plays which comprised Inside, the Orange Tree Theatre now finishes the project with a trio inspired by Outside.

All three are directed by Georgia Green, and she has ensured the very different voices of Sonali Bhattacharyya, Kalungi Ssebandeke and Zoe Cooper fit together, with a thread of family running through the whole evening.

In Bhattacharyya’s Two Billion Beats, schoolgirl sisters Asha (Zainab Hasan) and Bettina (Ashna Rabheru) the focus is on institutional racism and finding your own voice.

Two Billion Beats
Two Billion Beats

Hasan convinces as the teen who questions everything around her and refuses to accept any limits in her potential, using Gandhi as her inspiration.

At seventeen and fifteen, the sisters are the same but different: Asha the pragmatic one, the “mouth and trousers”; Bettina the dreamer, the idealist.

Ssebandeke’s Prodigal is about an estranged brother and sister coping with the aftermath of secrets uncovered after their mother’s death.

Prodigal
Prodigal

Fiston Barek’s Kasujja and Robinah Kironde’s Rita are suspicious of each other initially, but family love wins in the end in this sparse but perceptive play.

In lockdown we have all felt the absence of family members, and the loss of being together, talking, hugging, arguing.

Whatever hurt has happened, it will come right in the end, and Prodigal‘s writing brings these two characters into sharp life in a twenty minute piece.

Finally, Cooper’s The Kiss is a one-person play in which we meet Lou (Temi Wilkey), whose life has been on pause since the pandemic.

The Kiss
The Kiss

Life-changing medical procedures for her and wife Soph have been paused, and their lawn has grown out of hand. This is a fine script which has a light touch on some dark moments.

Lou’s list of things to do in the pandemic felt familiar, her marriage strong, her desire to reach out for something, anything, understandable.

Despite a pause to deal with technical problems with the sound (well done Orange Tree for clear communication on their Twitter, and an offer to rebook people in for another stream for free), these plays came across as a powerful unit which really felt like being back in the space watching the shows with other audience members.

Camillia Clarke’s design suggested the various outdoor spaces with ease, with Rajiv Pattani’s lighting design and Mwen Rukandema’s sound design adding to the overall atmosphere of a sixth-form college exterior, a garden at night, a council estate.

Outside streams until 17 April 2021, book here.

Image credits: Ali Wright

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Outside.

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