Of All The Beautiful Things In The World takes the Lorca classic The House of Bernarda Alba as inspiration, exporting the drama from the sunshine of Spain to the rain-soaked streets of Moss Side, South Manchester.
Theatre 2. It’s always a good start for me. Some wonderful things take place in Theatre 1 but it is in Theatre 2 that I often feel is where the true magic happens.
Intimate, almost immersive by design, it’s a small space where big themes are explored, important stories are told and talent discovered.
This occasion was no exception, in a play by Manchester writer and director, Yusra Warsama, which is multi-faceted in terms of narrative and presentation.
Tom Leah (aka Werkha), stage left, provides the soaring soundtrack to a high-octane 100 minutes of performance which takes us on a journey which, at times, is uncomfortable, at times, laugh out loud funny, and at times fist-clenchingly frustrating, as your sympathies switch from one character’s point of view, to the next and their individual plights are felt.
And I mean this most positively, folks.
Stripped down to brass tacks, there is a core theme of familial tension and relations. The bereaved mother with a stranglehold on her adult daughters. With one protective eye on the world outside their door and the judgement, discrimination and oppression that can come with it, and the other eye on her own values and cultural discipline as she battles a deep-set yearning from her daughters to break free.
This all culminates in the perfect representation of that old saying that I actually just paraphrased and essentially made up…
Straddling the worlds of theatrical drama and performance art (indeed there is an argument that they are of course one and the same thing), the play is cleverly punctuated throughout, with 4th wall breaking devices, which serve to jolt us out of the traditional narrative.
Most notably as we see characters freeze, transfixed by an empty spot-lit chair in the corner.
I genuinely enjoy being caught out.
No honestly, I do. I have this deeply irritating habit where I’m constantly trying to second guess a plot twist, a conclusion, a perpetrator…all so I can be crowned the winner of everything.
So I was gratified by the final scenes. The sudden and stark aforementioned focus on ‘the chair’ , was less what I thought was a nod to someone lost, but instead a foreshadowing of what’s to come.
Of All the Beautiful Things in the World delivers the abstract, a dose of very real kitchen sink and sweary realism, and an ending that will hit you right between the eyes.
Much to think about, much to enjoy. And those performances from the all female cast were just pitch perfect.
You can catch Of All the Beautiful Things in the World in Theatre 2 (hooray!) at HOME Mcr until 6 April 2023.
Visit https://homemcr.org/production/of-all-the-beautiful-things-in-the-world/ for details and tickets.
Cast and Crew
Cora Kirk as Aalyah
Flo Wilson as Mrs. F.A.
Marcia Mantack as Mama/Ugdoon
Sara Abanur as Mariam
Xsara-Sheneille as Suhela
Writer/Director: Yusra Warsama
Designer: Ellie Light
Composer: Tom Leah AKA Werkha
Lighting & Sound Designer: Mark Distin-Webster