From the beginning, it’s obvious how cleverly playwright Hannah Shury-Smith has used the title of her new piece of student writing. The audience watch, captivated, as Iona Macpherson - who plays the nameless and voiceless role of ‘the Woman’ - frantically scrawls a chalk box on the floor, which encloses centre stage. Through this, the theme of isolation which permeates the piece materialises – but will the characters who navigate this complex world escape it?

The narrative follows two mixed race sisters, one hauntingly absent and another defiantly present, as they attempt to come to terms with the death of their mother. Shury-Smith’s deeply emotive writing explores this grieving process in parallel with the struggle of consolidating a mixed-race identity in a society dictated by absolutes.  

The minimalist, monochromatic set design was particularly effective. Rather than being too bare, it created the perfect canvas for the vibrancy of the characters and the complexity of their relationships to shine. This simplicity let the actors’ transitions between reality and the abstract realm of inner thought happen seamlessly, creating a startlingly intimate insight into their psyche. The combination of physical theatre and lively past conversations between the two sisters created a rich, intimate, yet heartbreaking visual representation of memory.

"The highlight of the show was easily the dynamic between Alin and her character’s father, played by Saul Barrett."

Towards the start of the piece, the cast seemed unsure. Nerves seemed to get the better of Chakira Alin, Ayesha Baloch and Natasha Maurin, who played Black Woman, Muslim Woman and White Woman respectively. Their gestures seemed slightly awkward, and their vocal expressions felt somewhat unnatural at times. However, given the uncomfortable nature of the characters’ conversation, this almost worked in their favour, as the discussion of the whereabouts of Macpherson’s character grew increasingly tense.

The highlights of the show was easily the dynamic between Alin and her character’s father, played by Saul Barrett. Barrett’s acting was standout; both vocally and physically, he shaped a highly believable, mesmerising character. Alin was able to bounce off of this, and her character really shone through as a result. These scenes sparked and crackled with moments of extreme tension and intimacy, vulnerability and tenacity.

As the performance gained momentum, the cast seemed to gel together as an ensemble with increasing success. A particularly poignant moment where Baloch and Maurin’s characters discover their shared links to Norway was a truly heart-warming affirmation of the similarities which can transcend rigid race categories.

"A multifaceted exploration of interracial relationships"

However, just as it seemed like the piece was reaching a crescendo, it ended abruptly. Shury-Smith and her directorial team had created a semblance of plotline, and had set the wheels of character development and potential catharsis in motion, but neither seemed to reach a high point. Something felt like it was missing, not necessarily a resolution, but a final poignant moment for the audience to dwell on.


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Chalk is infatuating. Despite the characterisation of some of the minor characters needing work, the piece was largely successful. A multifaceted exploration of interracial relationships, it dips between the real and the abstract, encompassing the romantic, platonic and familial. Shury-Smith’s writing delicately handles the weighty themes of grief and identity to produce a performance that captivates from start to finish.

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