Review: e x i l e

Pippa Smith 3 November 2016

There is a uniqueness to e x i l e that makes it captivating from start to finish. I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like it. It is deeply disturbing, startling, and at times unnerving. And yet, the performance provides for an unforgettable viewing experience.

As I entered the Corpus Playroom, it was immediately clear that e x i l e was going to be a play characterised by twists. All six actresses were in place prior to the performance starting; five sitting against the walls of the Playroom, and one, Medea (Niamh Curran) lying bloody and seemingly lifeless in the centre of the sandy stage. Indeed, the stage floor was transformed into a bed of sand, the desert scene emphasising the truly desolate nature of exile.

The plot centres on the relationship forged between the women as they struggle to survive. Members of the group originate from a variety of cultures and historical periods in time, including Ancient Athens and Nepal. Yet each woman shares one thing in common with the rest; she has been ostracised by her community. In a flashback Nepalese Samasti (Claire Takami-Siljedahl) chillingly relives her experience of being forced into a shed on the outskirts of her village due to starting her period, which is regarded as impure: ‘the gods were angry and their anger was red.’

There is an unmissable feminist tone throughout the play, which brings to light the brutal, cross-cultural maltreatment of women throughout history. Antoinette (Beatriz Santos) for example, recalls how she was locked in the attic of her Caribbean home by her husband, and Abhita (Ruby Kwong) is subjected to unimaginable violence after having been captured protesting outside Parliament. Her piercing screams echo in the mind of the viewer long after the conclusion of the play. Despite all this, however, the underlying message is one of hope rather than despair, as the bond which forms between the women is defined by sisterly strength in the face of oppression.

The use of sound throughout the play was utterly transfixing –  the work of composer Arthur Robjns cannot go unnoticed. His original soundtrack is serene, yet at the same time unsettling, perfectly capturing both the gravity of the situation and the strength of the six women. The sand is also used as a mechanism to create sound, as the women let it run through their hands and rub against their skin.

e x i l e is a play that cannot fail to intrigue, and is a must-see this week.