A woman’s search for fulfilment in one area of her life leads to other questions in this brilliant new play…
By Suman Bhuchar
IT’S AN ENTICING premise, a woman looking for her orgasm in outer space, ‘Stars’- the new play by Mojisola Adebayo is the first one by long-established, originally South Asian, theatre production company – Tamasha, exploring African diaspora histories and co-produced with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London.
Really there is more to this show then purely hedonism, as it is a layered feminist tale about women’s bodies – who owns them and how they are controlled (Adebayo also has another show, ‘Family Tree‘ touring by Actors Touring Theatre which touches on similar themes).
‘Stars’ is a delightful and humorous 90 minutes, spent in the company of ‘Mrs’, (Debra Michaels) an older woman in her 70s, who confesses to her GP that she has never experienced the pleasure of an orgasm and she wants to achieve one.
Sex, sexuality, race, gender, feminist history, all feature in this play, co-directed by Gail Babb and S. Ama Wray.
It’s a solo show to a certain extent but with a wonderful 360 degree approach to theatre – which has a DJ (Bradley Charles) in a booth playing music – the tracks are helpfully titled on screen, and the backdrop is a big screen with graphics and animation artist, Candice Purwin which give us history, animation, captioning of the text in an all-round immersive experience designed by Miriam Nabarro, with lighting by Nao Nagai and tunes selected by the writer’s brother and former Tamasha producer, Debo Adebayo.
The stage set is a simple disc shaped area, with a door frame, fridge which when turned around becomes a washing machine, kitchen table and chair with a goldfish bowl.
Michaels, excels as Mrs – a lonely woman who shares her life with us as an audience, listening to her son, the DJ on radio as he plays tracks and is a distance presence and talking to her fish called ‘Cat’.
Michaels also performs all the other characters — and her accent and tone change, so everyone has their own voice — including her neighbour, a young girl Mary/Maryam – spoiler alert – who has had her pleasure cut off by the traditional practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and
has to become resigned to pain – when going to the loo. Mrs herself has experienced sexual abuse and the trauma has had a huge impact on her.
The relationship between Maryam and Mrs is deeply moving and profound as they explore space travel, the story of the Dogon people of Mali who believe they come from the Nommo – a spirit which is both male and female.
Very enjoyable and moving.
Acv star rating: **** (out of five)
‘Stars: An Afrofuturist Odyssey’ (April 13)-Thursday, May 4 check ICA
website for times.
ICA, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH (nearest tube/ railway station) is
After the ICA, it goes on tour until June 24
Age recommendation: 14+
May 9-11 7.30pm
Box office: https://contactmcr.com/shows/stars/
Bristol Old Vic
Box office: https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/stars
The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham
May 30-June 3
Box office: http://www.oldreptheatre.co.uk
Northern Stage, Newcastle
Box office: https://northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/stars/
Box office: http://www.everymanplayhouse.com