Monday, February 16

Shades Click for more info

During a reading of plays written by young Muslims way back in October, I had asked the writers when any of them would make a full production. Their reply was ominous; basically there was no guarantee any of them would make it further than they already had. I said back then that I'd watch any of them if they did make the stage, and when I found out that Shades was running at the Royal Court, well I had to put my money where my mouth was.

Not that it was easy to get to see it at all - I managed to snag the last saleable ticket of the whole four week run this morning (it ends on Saturday). To be honest I was in two minds going on my own; it turns out that it would have been a massive mistake if I hadn't gone (not least because it turned out that I happened to know other people there anyway).

The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs seemed like a perfect forum for Shades, with its stage flanked by two sets of audiences. Maximum seating (all communal and unreserved) can't have been for more than 100 (Wikipedia reckons it's 85), and it was intermediately clear why you can no longer buy tickets for the play. It's a bit disappointing actually, since Shades deserves to be seen by as many as possible; a friend on the reserve list had been turned away already, and I know others desperate for tickets too.

Shades was quite simply wonderful. It was well written (although I had known that already from its reading), well acted and well produced; from an academic point of view there was very little to complain about since it was so well put together. The set was simple (as in, non-existent), with minimal props and costume and clever lighting used to create ambiance instead. This was a clever move, since it allowed writing, acting and story to shine without dilution. The talent were well picked, each doing a class job of their roles although I did find that a part of me was a bit irritated at how none of them were Muslim. Perhaps that's ironic, or perhaps that's not.

It's worth talking about the script in more detail, and not just because of how it came into being. Essentially Shades is just another modern take on Romeo and Juliet. In fact I wouldn't give it many originality points, and the ending was especially inevitable. This didn't take much away from the play at all though, I was on the edge of my seat with my knuckles in my mouth a fair few times as I eagerly awaited to see how the people I recognised handled the situations I didn't. It didn't hurt how ingeniously funny it was in places either.

I've seen a fair few "Asian/Muslim" plays (not least the one I saw on Friday) and Shades was one of the very few that I recognised at least part of myself and others that I know of in. Similarly instead of noticing how wrong a writer got it, or how they knew nothing about what they were trying to talk about, I was left nodding in agreement while silently screaming "at last". In fact there was at least a couple of scenes which had pretty much been played out word for word in real life; it was uncanny, reassuring and vindicating to have our contrasting opinions and attitudes so accurately portrayed. But regardless of familiarity the play did manage to express a fair few non trivial moral points regarding subjectivity and perspective without being preachy and it deserves an award for that alone.

As an aside I was lucky enough to sit next to Alia Bano during the show; although I didn't get to talk much to her about her brilliant work I did unashamedly do the groupie thing and got her to sign my copy of the script (for her part she recognised me first from Unheard Voices, but that's neither here nor there. Ahem). It was good to see the whole thing come together so brilliantly, especially after seeing it at such a seminal stage before. I'm not ashamed to admit that the whole thing was pretty inspiring.

And I think that's it really - I liked Shades. I liked it a lot. The trouble now is how to recommend a show that's totally sold out. The Royal Court do run a returns list but you have to get there pretty early (around 6:30pm should do it) to stand a chance of getting in. So I guess that's it then: I totally recommend you make all the effort you can to watch Shades; it really is that much of a rare treat and I can only hope that it gets developed further enough to be seen by the numbers it truly deserves.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous07:29

    Ah so you did enjoy it, and it wasnt all that bad going alone. I'm glad u went and well reading the post, Definitely well worth it... good stuff, though i'd probably never get to see it, considering im at the end of the world but maybe you can tell me the story later.. x