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OILS | RADA Studios

{PR Invite} Written by Oviya

Oils written by Jessica Rachid, is a brave and memorable show that explores domestic abuse, toxic relationships and forgiveness through the relationship between 'mother' (Kat Kashefi) and 'father' (Matthew Blaney). Told primarily from the perspective of 'mother', it partly spreads awareness about abuse, and is partly a testament to the strength of victims. Based on a true story, Oils is an incredibly powerful show. 

The moments when mother is directly addressing the audience are great, with a spotlight on her, allowing her voice to be heard. It's through these moments that we are really able to connect with her, and understand how she ended up in this situation. The dialogues here are incredible, creating a moving imagery. However this does occur quite frequently and tends to undercut the story narrative a little. The two styles (her monologues and their interactions) are contrasting, making the changes abrupt and jarring at times. The two actors deliver great performances in their tough roles. However, it's sometimes a little hard to believe in the characters as they aren't fleshed out, and seem quite two dimensional. Father's tendency to switch from an almost sweet and romantic husband to a monster of a man is well-acted, but it feels a little on the nose to me. Whilst we do see the small paranoia build up over time, it still doesn't justify the massively violent reaction towards the end of the play. 

The mother is more fleshed out, with help from her monologues. Yet she often laments about her many daily activities (sewing, household chores, working, cooking etc), but we only ever see her react to the father. We're told so much yet see none of it, and it's a let down as she has so much potential to win sympathy from the audience early on, by exploring some of the storyline that link her to plots that exclude her husband (such as being disowned by her parents, her sneaky but loving sister, her ambition to work etc) This is not a criticism of the actors, who did well to embody such difficult characters in so many distressing situations.  

Unfortunately we do miss quite a lot of the dialogue as the actors are not wearing microphones. Mother often delivers her lines softly and towards the ground (which is a nice addition to the character, but unfortunately doesn't translate as well to stage), and this results in being a little hard to follow. This is heavily contrasted by the bellowing of father (who is often angry and commanding), which makes conversations between the two strained. The show is strongest when it lets the story play out naturally, with the most subtle moments. These include father's self-victimistion, the hints of their dwindling once-upon-a-time romance, her forgiveness and manipulative dialogues. These truly capture the reality of the terrifying scenario really well. 

The set is simple, with a table, chair and a few assorted props strewn about the stage. The show is quite contained to centre stage. The light design is good, with a sharp spotlight during mother's monologues, and dark colours during more tense scenes.

Oils is a show that deals with head on confrontation, both in the show and with the topic of domestic abuse. It's an important topic and Oils addresses it well.

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