A small disclaimer because I am very foolish I often got lost. On one occasion I was saved by an interesting, kind usher who happens to be the writer of this play. I am glad to see her relationship with the festival continue.
Nabilah Said is an international playwright with plays produced in London and Singapore, in this all female, all East Asian production (including the crew) she brings a taste of Singapore (including some delicious onstage food) to London. The production focuses on three young Muslim women in Singapore; Lily (Siti Zuraida), Nisa (Suhali Safari) and Fatimah (Nur Khairyah Ramli), some married, some not, some mothers, some not as they meet up to tell tales, consider their place in the world within social and religious constructs.
My initial concern that this was a world I didn’t understand, I have no East Asian background, I am not a Muslim but this is theatre and once I realised this was a play about the women the lack of shared culture didn’t become an issue. It mixes western references (Shakespeare, Chamred) with Muslim stories. It is clear that the number 3 is important in many culturesI particularly enjoyed the character of Lily, who brought bold and proud sexuality but increasing doubt about where she stood in a society that expected her to settle down and there is great chemistry between the women; all women struggling with pain in different ways, finding joy in these catch ups.
The play felt dreamy as if set in an alternative universe and I wrestled with ideas that they were in heaven, hell or simply in a dream-like state-escaping their day to day lives, perhaps none of the women existed. As a result, I wasn’t entirely sure where the play was going or where it has come from. The early scenes were so naturalistic that when they started talking about what happened after this meeting, that they would probably forget I became distracted by what we had seen; if I had missed clues.
Ultimately this is a fresh look at a culture we rarely see on stage and the fact that I was constantly questioning it and still enjoyed it suggests this is an original, experimental work and I look forward to seeing what this team has for audiences in the future.
Inside Voices is on until 27 January https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/inside-voices/