Made Visible, The Yard, theatre review: ‘Abstract piece tackles thorny racial issues’

Made Visible at The Yard Theatre. Picture: Mark Douet

Made Visible at The Yard Theatre. Picture: Mark Douet - Credit: Photo by Mark Douet

Canadian writer Deborah Pearson peels back the layers surrounding the thorny issues of racial prejudice and white guilt in her new play Made Visible.

Inspired to write the play following her encounter with two Asian women on a bench in East London’s Victoria Park, Pearson puts her own character on stage to deconstruct the play as it unfolds. At one point she comments, “I told myself it’s the worst possible thing to turn this into a play”. A risky strategy.

Director Stella Odunlami uses a range of devices to spin points-of-view on a daringly disorientating axis. Staged on a minimal spit and sawdust set designed by Hyemi Shin, the play uses simple lighting changes and park sound effects played through a smart-phone that the actors turn on in view of the audience.

The concept is clear. The dual processes of forming prejudices and devising plays are forensically examined and challenged.

Actors scrawl the date from their recent devising workshop on large see-through plastic boards and play back recordings of disagreements that the strong cast neatly parody to highlight the minefield of political correctness.

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Pearson’s contempt for her own habit of pigeon-holing people is commendable. Does she fear sari-wearing Ila (Mia Soteriou) and pragmatic Ayesha (a delightfully mischievous performance from Anjali Mya Chadha)? Is she drawn towards the bench out of an unconscious desire to colonise it?

Does she thrive on the self-satisfaction she derives from eliciting confessions from two Asian women with different cultural experiences?

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Character details are touching. Pearson captures the way women gravitate towards sharing their stories with strangers with sensitivity but the ceaseless self-flagellation (and she’s indebted to Woody Allen who her character even references) becomes repetitive and self-indulgent.

Ultimately the content remains too abstract and the observations are just not novel enough.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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