Om Shanit F*ck/Doll Face @BAC
Om Shani F*ck/Doll Face
The New Committee Room at Battersea Arts centre was the setting for this solo performance double bill. Two monologues about young Asian women, growing up in modern Britain trying to explore life outside the expectation of being the "good Indian girl".
Om Shanti F*ck was the first story told, with the role of Ambika being expertly portrayed by Janisé Sadik. Ambika is your stereotypical teenage girl, loves her Ivy Park clothing, talking to her mates and has a long term teenage romance. Whilst praying in a Hindu temple she realises one of her worst nightmares has become a reality. She has left a period stain on the carpet. Whilst trying her best not to stand up, in order to keep the stain covered she begins to talk to the audience about her views on the sexist taboos of Indian culture. Thanks to some well thought out sound design, scriptures are heard over the speakers that highlight how outdated some teachings about women are. Ambika explores the obsession around women within the culture having to always "cover up", whereas it seems men are free to do and wear as they please. The story highlights the prejudice's that women face, all due to scriptures that were written thousands of years ago. The main focus however is the way that periods are treated within Indian culture. Sadik's passion for this issue shines through as her character talks about how she was saved from having to attend a ceremony, where everyone in the village is invited to celebrate her first period. It is revealed that from that moment, plans are in place for families to organise marriages for their daughters, without the daughters having any say in the matter. Om Shanti F*ck is a triumph of educating people from outside the Indian culture, about how the culture views women, and how the women within the culture view their oppression at the hands of men and ancient teachings.
Doll Face is the darker of the two stories. Karen Mann tells the story of an Indian girl's rebellion against what she is told to do and become, that leads to disastrous consequences. The way in which Natasha Kathi-Chandra has directed this piece, leaves no stone unturned and exposes the darkest moments of Doll Face's life. An example of this is when Doll Face describes the night she went out clubbing by herself and met a group of people that she would never normally socialise with. The night ended with the use of heavy drugs and a sexual encounter so harrowing there were squirms throughout the auditorium. Mann strips down to her underwear revealing her vulnerability in the moment, the use of perfected physical movement plays out the events of the evening, ending with Doll Face covered only in a blanket the morning after, shivering as she recalls what had happened the night before. A striking image of regret and vulnerability that will stay with me for a long time. Doll Face becomes pregnant as a result of that night and again the story takes a dark turn. The setting is an abortion clinic, and Doll Face is alone with only a patronising nurse to comfort her. The dialogue is short and punchy as Mann flawlessly acts out the internal pain Doll Face is going through as her pregnancy is terminated. A truly heart breaking narrative, when you remember that she is alone solely because her culture would of shamed her as well as tarnishing her family's name.
A truly informative evening that brought to the audience's attention the pressures people can be living under, purely because of age old traditions and beliefs. Natasha Kathi-Chandra has created an expert insight into Asian culture that educates so effectively, showing that not everyone fits perfectly into their culture, and the pressures that some live with trying to please family.
**** 4 Stars
As a side note, with this being my first review since the National Theatre's release of their summer season without any female playwrights. I am proud to see that fringe theatre is leading the way in female led companies, writers and performers. Something I wish the leading theatres in the industry would take note of and learn from.
Reviewer: Corey Hennelly