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Review: Is God Is at Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company

Review by Kathryn Thomas

Walking down the decorated corridor toward Wharf 1 Theatre at STC, the energy for this show was already pumping. In a whirlwind of electrifying drama and riveting storytelling, "Is God Is," is the breakout masterpiece by celebrated US playwright Aleshea Harris. This theatrical tour de force, lived up to its reputation as an unapologetically intense and captivating experience.

Under the skillful direction of Zindzi Okenyo and STC Resident Director Shari Sebbens, "Is God Is" unfolds as a haunting tale of twin sisters, Racine and Anaia. Their journey takes them on a relentless cross-country quest for revenge against their absent, abusive father, vowing to make him pay for the trauma they have experienced at his hand.

What truly distinguishes "Is God Is" is Aleshea Harris's remarkable script, an entity of artistry in itself. Harris seamlessly weaves influences from diverse genres, including the ancient, the modern, the tragic, spaghetti western’s, hip-hop, and Afropunk, crafting a narrative that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and wildly entertained and engrossed.

The script's ability to navigate the play's emotional complexity, from heart-wrenching moments to spine-tingling horror, showcases Harris's storytelling prowess. It immerses the audience in the sisters' world, making them feel the tension, passion, and fury that drive Racine and Anaia.

The production's creative use of lighting and soundscapes adds another layer of intensity, effectively punctuating moments of suspense and emotion. The set is masterful, do we expect anything less from STC? "Is God Is" cleverly blends elements of horror into its narrative, ensuring that the audience remains both horrified and engrossed throughout.

The performances were nothing short of exceptional. Henrietta Amevor, as Anaia, delivered a powerhouse performance, she was raw and captivating. Her portrayal of a character consumed by vengeance was raw and emotionally charged. Opposite her, Masego Pitso's portrayal of Racine was revelatory. Pitso's depth, playfulness and vulnerability commanded the stage, a truly memorable performance. Another true standout was Cessalee Stovall as “she”, the girls estranged mother, also referred to as “God”. Her haunting monologue, embedded in her tomb was truly heart wrenching and commanding. A theatrical spectacle that will stay with me forever.

The approach to the representation of the burns on the girls skin was interesting, they weren’t particularly realistic, however I feel this could have been a deliberate choice by the directors. They looked almost drawn on, perhaps demonstrating the innocence and vulnerability of the girls, being victim to violence so early in their lives. However, it was effective and didn’t distract from the performances.

In "Is God Is," Aleshea Harris has created a one-act bombshell. It explores the intricacies of trauma, revenge, and redemption. Harris’ voice is important in modern theatre, having these stories brought to the forefront of mainstream theatre is refreshing and inspiring.

In conclusion, "Is God Is" at STC is a stylish, high-powered, and utterly engrossing theatre experience. If you seek a theatrical journey that is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking, "Is God Is" is a must-see. This captivating work leaves an indelible mark on modern theatre, a testament to the enduring power of exceptional storytelling.

Image Supplied


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