The Ovalhouse has been a part of the London theatre scene for over 50 years, and is patronised by people such as Pierce Brosnan. But with shows like Sister being being performed here, it doesn’t need the famous names to draw people in.
Sister is the new play by Born Mad, a theatre company led by director Rebecca Hanbury and composer Alex Groves and unsurprisingly, there is a strong audio focus in the production. Lines are often echoed throughout, and the scene are represented as if the actresses are being recorded at the time; it encapsulates the spirit of the lines and stories being used and adds a fluidity to proceedings.
The play is based on interviews with nearly 50 women and girls from across the UK, and told through verbatim text and foley art, a blend of choral singing and perfect synchronisation between the plays two leads, Nia Coleman and Daisy Brown. Dressed in identical shirts and trousers (one of the sets of characters they play are twins) the two move about the stage, manipulating a series of microphones positioned over a long table laden with dinner trays, each one containing a snapshot from a life. delicate sound effects perfectly punctuating various anecdotes and bringing them to life; from the clink of china as two sisters reminisce over tea, to the plopping sounds of memories of childhood bathtimes.
The harmony between the sisters is flawless and their speaking so many lines in unison adds a haunting quality to the production. The shifting of location, shown through fluctutations in accent as characters speak of stories deriving from families separated by war, Algerian diaspora, and mixed-race immigrants all give their stories. The result is an intriguing blend of high and lowlights from a rich and varied tapestry of myriad lives, united by blood.
The staging is superb, with minimalist cast and perfect execution of movement through the minute and completely true scenes.
The rare moments when the cast are singing individually are immensely gratifying; the play is very effective at showcasing the talents of both Coleman and Brown, providing ample opportunity for them to shine. It is ingenious casting rather than self-indulgence; both are most definitely talents to look out for, I feel grateful to have seen them, if only so that I can brag to no-one that I saw them before they were famous.
The narrative was fascinating, if slightly bizarre at times (as life so often is) and I thoroughly recommend it.
Writer and Director: Rebecca Habury
Designer: Georgia de Grey