by Paul Anthony Morris.
Arcola (Studio) 24 Ashwin Street E3 8DL To 7 November 2015.
Mon–Sat 8pm. Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: William Russell 23 October.
Reach for your copy of the Old Testament.
The dazzling performance by Karlina Grace-Paseda makes this telling of the story of Sarah, wife of Abraham, a gripping piece of theatre but in all honesty it does help if you know your Bible.
Having no idea what I was about to see, other than it was about “one woman’s epic journey to found a new nation,” I spent the first half-hour or so slightly puzzled by what was going on. It seemed very topical, all about being a refugee and the horror of life on the road and in the camps.
Then it dawned. This was the story of Abraham, the patriarch who founded the Jewish settlement in Canaan, having come there with his wife and half-sister, Sarah – Sarai of the title – who was barren.
She was not barren for ever as, when he was a hundred, he and Sarah, then in her nineties, had a child, Isaac. Abraham had been promised by God he would be the founder of a great nation and led Sarah to believe she would be the mother of one, despite being barren.
Grace-Paseda tells the story powerfully in words, dance and mime, recounting their arrival in Egypt, where she was to prosper, as refugees – there are plenty still today for parallels to be drawn. Her account of nursing plague victims in the refugee camp, and carrying out a Caesarean operation on the wife of one refugee boss, with rags as props, are brilliantly done, both horrifying and inspiring.
Byron Wallen provides a thrilling musical background and the four musicians cope with its complexities perfectly. But the evening belongs to Grace-Paseda, sinews straining, eyes flashing, hurling herself round the stage, rolling on the ground, sometimes crying out in pain, at others delivering lengthy speeches, and all the while conveying extremes of emotion.
It is tricky stuff; the journey she takes the audience on not an easy one; but it is worth while going along for the ride. All the same, chances are you will have to head for your Old Testament the minute you get home – assuming you have one to hand.
Sarai: Karlina Grace-Paseda.
Musicians: Jenny Adejayan, Louai Alhenawi, Nao Masuda, Byron Wallen.
Director: Paul Anthony Morris.
Designer: Victoria Johnstone.
Lighting: Prema Mehta.
Composer/Musical Director: Byron Wallen.
Choreographer: Shane Shambhu.