BWW Review: AISHA, Old Red Lion Theatre
Brand new arts organisation AILA debuts Aisha, written and directed by the founder, AJ. A harrowing story about child marriage, the play follows a 17-year-old's struggle as she endures the life of a slave-bride.
As presented by AJ, this piece handles an urgent matter but is regrettably flawed as a whole. The shock value of the subject is used to do what it says on the tin, it shakes the audience profoundly but without refinement. The playwright's lyrical style of writing clashes with the horror of the events: Aisha speaks in a splendid manner, with a choice of words and syntax backed by the fact that she spends her days locked in her room reading but that's severely unconvincing.
This surely creates an interesting oxymoron between her curated yet unnatural speech and her horrifying experiences but falters periodically over the course of the show. The repetition of events and the wordiness of the script establish the circle of abuse she has to sustain but weigh down the play greatly. Alex Jarrett doesn't budge handling the emotionally demanding material. She is heartbreaking in her delivery, juggling youth and mature agony seamlessly.
The staging, however, isn't ideal and limits the audience's reception of her performance. Alys Whitehead's set design features a white canvas installation that, in perspective, signifies a small closed door while a bed sits on its right and a table on its left. This arrangement doesn't click and results in a visual shift as the bed becomes such a prominent part of the action, essentially representing Aisha's shackles.
Even though AJ's spirit in creating Aisha is a noble one, the piece comes off as a limited examination of the issue of child marriage. The lack of backstory and background as well as the inadequacy to expand on the topic has the show fall flat in its short-sightedness.
Though the work itself needs to be polished and perhaps developed further, this first incarnation is only the start for AILA, which certainly have the potential to be a light in the dark as far as political involvement is concerned.