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Liberation Squares | Brixton House

In a recent awakening of artistic responses to societal issues, many writers employ drama as a medium to speak out, a platform to explore what would otherwise be minority voices and to hopefully inspire audiences to do the same and spread the word to spark change. But what sets Liberation Squares apart from other pieces of its kind, is the unexpected fusion of lighthearted comedy from even before the first word is set with an upbeat pre-show atmosphere.

Written by Sonali Bhattacharyya, who also recently penned a joyful adaptation of The Jungle Book for Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s annual Christmas show (our coverage of its Relaxed Performance can be found here), the show features an all-female ensemble cast of three playing teenage girls in the same school.

Two friends Ruqaya (Vaneeka Dadhria) and Sabi (Asha Hassan) are first introduced as girls who, like most in the modern day, fancy going viral on social media, though they also unfortunately face racist attacks (done to quite extreme extent for dramatic effect). That is, until TikTok “icon” and fellow schoolmate Xara is added to the equation, claiming to be an ambassador for a Muslim female youth group and put simply, unapologetically narcissistic.

Being a coming-of-age story on its own, there are friendships falling out over difference in opinions, but this is all set against dynamic, intermittent physical theatre sequences (choreographed by Iskandar R. Sharazuddin) and hilariously exaggerated humour that has the audience howling with laughter at moments - a clever technique to bring in the discussion of more serious issues further into the play, including the “Prevent” programme, claimed to “prevent radicalisation in vulnerable groups".

It doesn't take long for the dark side of social media to reveal itself, especially set in a society that may seem remotely dystopian. It takes the library deliberately renamed ‘Blibiotek with a K’ as an example, but the issues raised are certainly universal across various communities and races, which is why they resonant highly with an audience of diverse backgrounds. Bhattacharyya's writing style feels highly representative of young people's voices (think Gen Z slang), set against Joshua Gadsby's mood-painting lighting and an increasingly unsettling soundscape by Elena Peña. There is more character development communicated through an effective combination of movement and dramatic irony between the cast who naturally generate chemistry, building up to a desperate protest - a direct call for audiences to reflect on the story just been presented.

An unexpectedly uproarious outcry juxtaposed with humour easily garnering rapport, Liberation Squares is one stirring piece that speaks volumes to the impact of theatrical responses, one that will, if not be a cracking comedy, provoke a thought beyond leaving the performance space.

Liberation Squares, a co-production by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse in association with Brixton House, continues its UK tour through 8th June, with more information and tickets for all venues available here.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ali Wright


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