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‘The Singing Stones’ review – Restoring forgotten voices

‘The Singing Stones’ review – Restoring forgotten voices

February 19 2015

The role of the women during the recent Arab uprisings has been largely obscured but a diverse, all women theatre company seeks to remind, provoke and put them centre stage…

By Suman Bhuchar

PRESENTED as a trilogy of short plays, “The Shooting Stones” written by the respected writer, Kay Adshead, tells us interconnected stories of Arab women who came to the fore when they began to protest for change during the Arab spring movements.

They are performed by a multi-cultural company of nine actors (eight women and one man) and a life size girl puppet. The production is mounted by Mama Quilla, an award-winning, women-led performing arts company, founded by writer Adshead.

The first, “Stones”, is a short piece about a persecuted Syrian artist, played by Alia Alzougbi (also credited as co-writer) and has several witty visual projects (which frustratingly are not clearly visible).

The second one, “The Women’s Spring” is a series of different scenes, set in several Middle-Eastern countries; such as a court room in Egypt where the women protesters have an opportunity for redress; another in Libya where a group of women find Gaddafi stuck in a drain gutter and the women’s’ reaction to how he should be dealt with.

The second act of the play deals with the involvement of British people. There is a scene where you see a young British man (played by a woman) and fully veiled teenagers wanting to join the fight in Syria, and their idealism is pitted against a local Syrian activist. This is an interesting dynamic that is set up and could be developed into another separate play.

Another scene set in Camberwell, London, explores the intentions of a white liberal woman who wants to put on a play, about human rights abuses inflicted on women (something which Mama Quilla does anyway) and there is the usual well-meaning sitting room discussion where everyone explains their position, while a baby cries in the next room. This is quite funny and leaves you wondering whether this is how this particular play was conceived.

The last one, “The Singing Stones” is a poetic rumination of the oppression of a young woman who sings in public but then is silenced and treated with violence. This is a beautiful piece, and it could be a separate performance in its own right.

Alongside the theatre performance we have visuals projected onto the walls and these are hard to see and there is also live singing from well-known Ghazal singer, Najma Akhtar.

It’s a good idea, spotlighting the role women have had in the Arab Spring with good writing and performances, but the overall effect is that it is too long and not best directed by the writer herself.

ACV rating: ***

Picture: (l-r, from back):Jody Jameson, Sarah Auber, Vivienne Rochester, and Rhiannon James by Mia Hawke

The Singing Stones’ continues until February 28 at Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL. Tel: 020 7503 1646. Tickets from £12. More info/booking http://www.arcolatheatre.com/production/arcola/the-singing-stones

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture

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