What is the age limit to be on a jury in the UK? How many jurors make up a Scottish jury? These are just some of the questions posed to the audience at the start of States of Verbal Undress, a new play from writer and actor Rani Moorthy looking at immigration, asylum, and identity.
Opening with a light hearted Q and A on the British Citizenship test between the shows two actors, Rani, and Curtis Cole, which spills into the audience we’re all invited to test our knowledge (or lack of). It is from here that the production takes shape, comprising of various migrant stories and experiences from around the globe, all expressed via Cole and Moorthy. These include a Vietnamese drag artist, an Iranian stripper, and a West African boxer. Each story covers a wide range of topics from war to the traditional British Christmas dinner, to east vs. west cultural differences. The production is sprinkled with radio news stories and sound bites that highlight some of the issues facing modern British society. Each of the stories despite being different in narrative are similar in theme, that of identity and belonging. We continue our tour of the world, with tales from Burma and Hong Kong, where the show concludes with a brief update on how each of the characters are dealing with their own identity and individuality issues.
Each story covers a wide range of topics from war to the traditional British Christmas dinner, to east vs. west cultural differences.
At first I found the delivery quite confusing with the leads cross cutting between each other, and was unsure if they were playing the same character or someone different, however once this became clear I could enjoy the production more. Both actors were exceptional and should be given a great deal of credit; between them they play 20 different characters, which is no mean feat. All are played with a great deal of warmth and affection, allowing each character to develop their own personality, the majority of which worked well. Director Ruth Carney Nash has opted to use little in the way of props and set design, instead choosing to let the writing do the talking, this gives the production a more human less ‘showy’ feel. Despite the weighty subject matter the production doesn’t feel preachy nor has it any set agenda; it just gives organic human stories and lets you make up your own mind.
If you fancy something a little different and thought provoking, you could do no better than take in States of Verbal Undress, definitely a play to get you thinking. (By the way the answers are 70 and 15 respectively in case you were wondering… I didn’t Google it… honest)
Words by Matt Forrest