Julie Tomlin’s theatre news: Aisha, at Hen & Chickens Theatre
16 June, 2017 — By Julie Tomlin
AISHA at Hen & Chickens Theatre opens with a harrowing account of sexualised violence by the girl-woman Aisha, that, though terrible to witness, seems to promise a poetic telling of this story of forced marriage.
Sold at the age of 14 by her Nigerian parents to a man more than 30 years older, Aisha, played by Laura Adebisi in her acting debut, has a love of words and books that gives her voice a quality of both semi-detached narrator and anguished child whose emotional capacity is far exceeded by the violence she endures.
It is this narrative voice in AILIA theatre company’s production, written, directed and produced by “AJ” that remains the most intriguing throughout, and little else matches it. Scenes depicting her relationship with her mother (Sabrina Richmond) are rich with potential, some of those with her “possessor” husband, portrayed as an inadequate, self-loathing control freak by Ayo Oyelakin, display undiluted violence that is difficult to watch.
Others, such as those with his friend “Mr White” (Lloyd Morris) and doctor (Alexander Lincoln) who tends to her pregnancy, are particularly sketchy. Mr White shows himself to be boorish, bigoted, entitled and predatory – did you really think he would be any different, challenges Aisha.
The scene with a support worker (Olivia Valler-Feltham) at the end of the play has an interesting twist, one that challenges the relationship of the white saviour professional to the Dagenham-born Aisha. But the two characters don’t quite meet in the moment that this creates, and as with the beginning, it suggests potential that isn’t quite followed through or realised.
Aisha runs until June 24. For tickets call 020 7704 2001.